Law firms ‘excluding new joiners’

Some law firms are excluding employees from company pension schemes even though they could be in breach of age discrimination legislation, according to a report by Portus Consulting.

The consultancy’s HR In Law employee benefits survey 2009 found some firms are excluding new joiners under the age of 25.

The survey, which took data from 128 law firms, shows that two-thirds have a GPP in place and none has a defined benefit plan open to new joiners. Pension salary sacrifice is available for 29 per cent of professional staff and 27 per cent of support staff. The report found that US and global firms are significantly more likely to provide salary sacrifice arrangements than other legal sectors, possibly because they have smaller offices, making implementation easier.

Although 77 per cent of firms said individual advice is offered on joining the plan, for a significant number this is only on an ad hoc basis, if the employer asks for it. Only 15 to 20 per cent of firms are doing so in a structured way to new recruits.

A majority of firms provide PMI for individuals, 70 per cent for professionals, and 63 per cent for support staff, and a minority of 14 per cent provide it for spouses or partners and children of professional staff.

Three-quarters of firms provide income protection for professional staff, while 62 per cent of support staff benefit from cover. And 88 per cent of firms provide life assurance for staff, with two-thirds providing cover of four times salary. Only 11 per cent fund critical illness cover for staff, and a similar number offer dental insurance.

Sue Gregory, marketing director of Portus Consulting, says: “”One of the most noticeable changes since our 2006 survey is the increased provision of salary sacrifice by US and global firms. This may indicate they are taking a more proactive approach, related to other legal sectors, with regard to their pension arrangements.”