Discretionary decisions: case 1

Mr F asked for early payment of his pension on compassionate grounds. The regulations governing the scheme gave the employer the discretion to pay benefits early in certain circumstances.

It also had to set a policy against which to make decisions about early payment.

After considering his application, the employer refused Mr F’s request on the basis that his case did not meet the criteria stated in its policy.

Mr F had challenged the decision that was made, partly because the employer had not reviewed the policy for around fifteen years.

The employer said that at the time the decision was made, the decision makers must have thought the policy continued to be appropriate.

They also said that on review now, the policy might be made more restrictive, so there would be less chance that Mr F’s benefits would be paid.

We found that while the basic process followed by the employer was not incorrect, it had failed to review its policy regularly – if only to decide that it did not need to be updated – meaning the decision had potentially been made with out of date criteria.

The employer was directed to establish what the compassionate early payment policy should have been at the time Mr F made his application, and to consider his application again under that policy.