Update FPA on behalf of the COR and Frans Everts

The Central Staff Council (‘the COR’) and Shell Netherlands (‘Shell NL’) have been regularly and constructively discussing the future of our pensions for some time now. The reason for these is the new Future of Pensions Act. Good progress has been made and that means we are entering the next phase. In this phase, the VOEKS (‘Association of former employees of Shell’) Hearing Rights Committee (‘VHC’) will exercise its so-called legal “hearing right” and give its opinion on the draft transition plan that reflects the proposal for a new pension scheme and the transition.

This opinion will then be taken into account by the COR and Shell NL in the follow-up discussions. This will take some time. After this, the intended proposal as discussed with the COR and with the VHC will be submitted to the COR via a formal request for consent. The consent of the COR is needed before any changes can be implemented. We will therefore only be able to provide more information about our new pension scheme and the transitional measures in a few months’ time.

In addition, in this next phase, we will also continue the iterative and preparatory discussions with the boards of the pension funds (SNPS and SSPF). The boards have the task of assessing the new pension scheme for feasibility and balance, among other things. This means they must assess whether all interests have been properly weighed in the process. To this end, an internal decision-making process takes place within the funds. After the decision of the funds, the new scheme will have to be implemented. We aim to implement the changes to the SNPS scheme by 1 January 2026. For the SSPF scheme, this is 1 January 2027.

Both the COR and Shell NL appreciate the constructive cooperation and confidently look forward to the next phase in the process.

5 questions about the changes

We get a lot of questions from employees. You’ll find below the most important, more technical, questions and their answers.

 

1. In case my pension is converted into the new scheme, it will increase quite a bit. Why is this? 

The Pensions Act entails a major change in the pension system in the Netherlands. These changes relate, among other things, to the tax framework that applies to pensions. By converting the accrued pensions (which is the default), different tax rules will apply to your pension and you will be able to take full advantage of this. This is because there is no longer a limit when it comes to the increase of your pension as a result of positive investment returns. Participants who can invest for a number of years and have a so-called long investment horizon will benefit the most from this. The longer the horizon, the greater the benefit for the (active) participants. In addition, the buffers of the pension fund will be shared with the participants in the case of conversion, which will increase this positive effect even further. This is a one-time opportunity that will potentially lead to a significantly higher expected pension. Although, in the new scheme, the investment risks will be taken on by the participants. It is expected that this will provide a significant benefit in almost all cases.

 

2. What about the calculations and when will employees be given insight into the calculations and considerations made by Shell NL and the COR?

 Our projections are calculated by a third party, Ortec. Ortec is the market leader in the Netherlands and works as an independent party for Shell. Ortec is also working for the pension fund. Ortec has internal certification on its processes and also internal controls to monitor the quality of the data. In addition, Ortec’s calculations are checked by our own actuaries and the actuary of the works council. We are currently in close talks with the Central Works Council and are also discussing the results of the various calculations there.

Ultimately, the transition plan will explain how the social partners (Shell NL and the COR) view the transition. This explanation will also clarify how Shell NL and the COR interpret the open standards (such as a “balanced decision” or “disproportionately unfavourable”) referred to in the Future Pensions Act. We consider the interests of all groups of participants and take the different perspectives into account. For example, the expected consequences (both positive and negative) and the impact of a higher or lower funding ratio at the time of conversion must be considered. Ultimately, there must be a balanced transition. The considerations and choices will ultimately be included in the transition plan. This tran- sition plan is an appendix to the COR’s request for consent and is also made public to all participants.

 

3. What assumptions are used for the calculations?

To make the calculations, Ortec has developed special software that is used for many pension funds in the Netherlands and also for us. In this software, 2,000 scenarios are projected based on economic scenario sets prescribed by the Dutch Central Bank. Different assumptions apply to each scenario, so there isn’t such a thing as basic assumption. However, we can say that on average in the long term, a return of 5.6% on equities, 2.0% on bonds and 2.1% inflation is assumed. The 2,000 scenarios are also based on so-called stress scenarios: what if things go very badly, but also what if things go very well. An example of such a stress scenario is stagflation, in which there are negative stock returns in combination with high inflation for a longer period of time. The economic projections to determine the pension outcomes are made for the full expected life span of the participants. Scenarios in which participants live longer or shorter are not considered separately.

 

4. How do the experts view DNB’s scenarios? What if things get worse?

Every company and pension fund will have to work with these scenario sets. In addition to the most likely scenarios, these sets also contain very extreme scenarios. This involves a lot of work and although the scenarios will not cover everything, these calculations do provide a good overview of what can be expected. These sets also take into account extreme situations that are projected in the future. Due to political pressure, DNB’s scenarios contain many more very unreal situations than was previously the case. In this sense, the scenarios are seen as pessimistic rather than optimistic. The Government wants us to provide insight into these scenarios. Despite the fact that these are extreme and in all likelihood will not happen, everyone will also see these scenarios on their pension overview.

We understand that it is important that all interests are properly taken into account, even in a situation in which things suddenly take a turn for the worse. That’s why we set the bar high and don’t want to enter at all costs. We only want to make a request for entry if it is clearly better for the participants. Not only in the expected scenario, but we want the participants to benefit in a large majority of the scenarios. In doing so, we also look specifically at the stress scenarios mentioned, in which things go much worse. We are looking at this together with the COR.

 

5. What does this transition mean for me?

During the information sessions, we showed personas to give you insight into the possible consequences of conversion or leaving behind the pensions. We will update these personas based on the latest figures. We will also add new personas and explain how to read these graphs.

 With these examples, you can get a pretty good idea of how the changes will impact your pension. Unfortunately, precise details of the new pension expectations at the individual level are not yet available and will take some time. Through the pension fund, you will eventually receive an individual overview showing you exactly what the effect on your pension is. It is not yet clear exactly when this will happen, but it will probably only be possible around the time when the transition actually takes place, because all systems must also be set up for this and the situation at the time of the transition determines the actual outcomes. So, that could take a few more years.

View the slides

 

In June, July and September, information sessions were held for Shell employees in the Netherlands. You can view these recordings via the link below.

The recordings are available in Dutch and English and are intended for employees only.

The slides used can be found here.

 

 

New rules for your partner’s pension

New rules for your partner’s pension
As the new legislation is in place, we also know that the pension for your partner is changing. We call this pension the survivor’s pension. This is the pension that your dependents (partner and any children) will receive after your death.

In the new pension system the survivor’s pension will be arranged differently. The most important change is the way the survivor’s pension is calculated if you pass away before you retire. Currently, the level depends on the level of your own retirement pension. But this will change. In the new system, the level of the survivor’s pension is a fixed percentage of your salary, regardless of your age. Shell Netherlands and the COR are currently discussing the level the survivor’s pension should be in the new scheme.

It is good to know that as long as you work (and for a limited period thereafter) a survivor’s pension is automatically insured. If you leave employment, you have the opportunity to maintain the coverage for the survivor’s pension. This can be useful if you (temporarily) do not join another company (and accrue pension) after leaving Shell. Right now, you don’t have that option. Shell and the Works Council jointly decide the level of coverage in the new system.

When you retire, you can decide whether you want to arrange a survivor’s pension as well as a pension for yourself. Employees who participate in the SNPS-scheme, already have this option. Would you like to know more about your current survivor’s pension? Use the pension planner on Shellpensioen.nl

Your involvement in the pension changes

Shell Netherlands is currently discussing the changes to our pension as a result of the Future Pensions Act (WTP) with the Central Works Council (COR). In recent weeks we have received many questions from employees and other participants about how they can give their view on the upcoming changes.

The government has explicitly aimed to ensure proper involvement of all participants, but has deliberately chosen not to include an individual right of objection in the new legislation. The intention of the government is to enable a good transition to the new system. An individual right of consent would make the transition considerably more complex and virtually impossible. Another factor is that it is a very complex matter and that many people may not be able to properly oversee or assess the consequences. Adequate involvement of the participants is therefore guaranteed in other ways.

At Shell, the pension agreement is a topic that is discussed with the COR. The COR has a right of consent; This is regulated by law. Shell Netherlands and the COR must go through a careful process, in which a comprehensive transition plan is drawn up by Shell, in which all choices and considerations must be included. The changes affect not only Shell employees, but also former employees (the so-called deferred members) and pensioners. Shell Netherlands and the COR must take all interests of all parties involved into account and, ultimately, take a balanced and informed decision. The COR is supported by an expert and has also set up a WTP working group. In addition, the COR regularly consults a sounding board group that includes colleagues who have knowledge about pensions.

 The other participants must also be involved in the process. The representative associations of pensioners and deferred members (at Shell this is VOEKS) have a hearing right and can thus give their opinion on the transition plan. Shell Netherlands and the COR will also have to take this opinion into account in the final decision-making process. Once a decision has been taken, that decision is then submitted to the pension fund. The pension fund must then review that decision and, among other things, assess whether the requirement of a balanced decision has been met. In addition, the pension fund will also seek advice from the Accountability Body, in which, among other things, pensioners are represented. In this way, the government has safeguarded a very careful process with all kinds of stakeholders.  

At Shell, we implement these legal safeguards very carefully. For example, we have been in discussions with the VOEKS hearing rights committee since the beginning of this year to include them in the decisions to be taken and various aspects that are important in this regard and also to receive their input and feedback. This also applies to the COR, with which we have been holding information sessions about the upcoming changes since the beginning of last year.

The pensionquiz

Take 5 minutes to learn more about your pension at Shell and understand what you could do to save and plan more for your future. If you have already completed the quiz, let us know what you think of it below!

Infosessions VOEKS

The Association of Shell Pensioners and Former Employees (VOEKS) is organising information meetings soon to discuss the future of pensions at Shell with former members. A presentation will be given to explain the important choices (no decisions have been made yet), after which there will be room for questions and discussion. It is important for the VOEKS hearing rights committee to gauge the opinion of the VOEKS constituency on the possible pension implications of the new law. Below are the dates.  

 Region  Date   Time   Location
 De Haag/Leiden   20 september   14:00-17:00  Dorpscentrum 
Lijtweg 9, Oegstgeest 
 Amsterdam/Haarlem-Alkmaar   22 september  10:00-12:30  
13:15-16:00 
Museum Huis van Hilde 
Westerplein 6, Castricum 
Het Zuiden   26 september  10:00-13:00  Hotel De Borgh 
IJshof 1, Zevenbergen 
Het Noorden  29 september  10:00-13:00 
14:00-17:00 
NAM kantoor 
Schepersmaat 2, Assen 
Het Sticht/Arnhem- 
Apeldoorn/Twente 
 2 October 14:00–17:00   Kulturhus 
Stationsstraat 25, Epe 
Rijnmond  13 October 10:00-13:00  Carlton Oasis hotel 
Curieweg 1, Spijkenisse 
Virtuele sessies End of October
(to be confirmed)
  Online – invitation follows


More information on how to apply can be found on the VOEKS website:

Additional information sessions

Due to the high turnout at the information sessions in June and July, we have decided to organize two more information sessions. These will take place on September 12 and 14. The sessions are intended for Shell employees only.

 

You can sign up here.

 

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