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£50m in pension funds for BHS workers in Northern Ireland at risk, claims

By Joanne Sweeney

Up to £50m in pension funds for around 300 BHS employees in Northern Ireland is under threat after the retail chain went into administration, it has been claimed.

Workers in the four BHS stores in Northern Ireland not only face losing their jobs but also up to 10% of pension pots they have paid into for years.

While efforts are being made to find a new buyer for the beleaguered chain, its £571m pension liability is likely to be taken over by the government's Pension Protection Fund (PPF) so that the employees' contributions are protected.

Pension specialist Conall Reilly from wealth management company Johnston Campbell estimates that between £40-£50m of BHS's £571m UK-wide pension liability could be owed to its Northern Ireland employees, who represent 2.5% of the total workforce.

Mr Reilly added: "If the existing staff are retained by a new owner, their future pension provision will be on defined contribution basis (money purchase). This is the same as the current BHS scheme for the majority of the staff.

"The level of contribution from the new employer may not be as high (i.e. percentage of earnings) as the existing contribution from BHS, so there could still be a future loss to these staff."

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green is to be called to appear before MPs to face questions over the collapse of the retailer.

The billionaire will be invited to give evidence before a cross-party committee of MPs carrying out an investigation into the retailer's administration, its pension liabilities and the impact it will have on the Pension Protection Fund.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said: "It is a worrying time for BHS staff and their families. We have now got the Pensions Protection Fund carrying out an assessment."

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