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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2019-2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Law

LAW3447: PENSIONS LAW

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None. Location Durham

Prerequisites

  • Introduction to English Law and Legal Method (LAW 1121) [OR Legal Skills (LAW 1107) AND Legal System of England and Wales (LAW 1117); OR Legal Skills (LAW 1041)], Contract Law (LAW 1071), EU Constitutional Law (LAW 1061), Trusts and Equity (LAW 2211), Employment Law (LAW 2111)

Corequisites

  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None

Aims

  • To build on foundations laid in Contract Law and Trusts and Equity and Employment Law as it applies to pension rights of employees and former employees and their survivors arising under work place pension schemes and the investment of pension scheme assets;
  • To acquire knowledge of the main areas of the legislative, tax and regulatory regime applicable to UK pension schemes and protecting members’ pension rights;
  • It is intended that students shall acquire sounds and accurate knowledge of these areas, providing them with a useful source both for future practice and their everyday lives in the form of understanding the legal framework within which pension rights operate and the way they are regulated;
  • It seeks to develop students’ facility in handling of ‘black letter law’ areas, and, in particular, ability to comprehend and apply UK legislation and EU legislation applicable to the UK to analyse and reason from decided UK and applicable EU cases.

Content

  • Key pensions law concepts and how pension rights from workplace pension schemes fit into the employment contract;
  • The structure and key provisions of the legal and regulatory framework applicable to pension schemes and members’ pension rights, including pension scheme trustee powers and decision taking, in the context of the very long term nature of pension benefits;
  • Overview of the roles and powers of the Pensions Regulator, Pensions Ombudsman and the Pension Protection Fund;
  • Key features of the UK tax regime within which workplace pension schemes operate;
  • Key equality issues in relation to pension rights – non-discrimination on grounds of gender, age and sexual orientation;
  • Overview of accounting treatment of pension rights; how they are valued and legislative regime for funding defined benefit pension schemes and repairing their deficits;
  • Key pension issues in the context of corporate transactions; in particular, share sales and asset sales and the particular importance of managing defined benefit pension scheme related issues;
  • Law relating to protecting accrued pension rights and regulating changes to pension rights which may accrue in the future;
  • Law relating to pension scheme trustee companies and their duties when investing scheme assets, including the extent to which environmental, social and governance factors may or must be taken into account;
  • Overview of pension rights in insolvency situations and management of defined benefit pension scheme issues in a financially stressed employer context.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate:
  • Knowledge of how rights under workplace pension schemes fit into the employment contract and the law protecting those rights and the main structure of the regulatory and tax framework applicable to workplace pensions in the UK;
  • Knowledge of the law relating to pension scheme trustee company powers and decision taking;
  • Knowledge of the way in which laws against discrimination on grounds of gender, age and sexual orientation operate in relation to pension schemes;
  • A high level understanding of the accounting impact of pensions schemes on employers and funding of defined benefit pension schemes and knowledge of the law regulating the funding of defined benefit pension schemes;
  • An understanding of how pension law operates in practice in the commercial world, including pension change exercises and the impact of pension schemes on corporate transactions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Apply the existing law to given factual scenarios and advise accordingly;
  • Analyse and evaluate the existing law in terms of its legal and commercial context.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate the skill of communicating complex ideas and arguments in clear written form.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The core principles of the subject will be conveyed by Seminars. Additional reading will be set to ensure that more complex aspects of the principles are investigated. Seminars will be used to ensure that the reading has been understood, and to develop subject-knowledge and subject-skills as outlined above. Formative essays will be used to develop both subject-skills and communication skills.
  • Summative assessment comprises one summative essay of 3000 words. Students are given a choice of questions to write their summative essays, but the questions are structured in such a way as to assess students on all the specific outcomes. The summative essay tests the ability to focus on relevant legal issues and organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised. The summative essay questions will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 Normally weekly during Michaelmas Term 2hrs 12
Preparation and reading 88
TOTAL 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 3,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1 written essay of about 1,500 words


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University



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