BURY companies face fines of up to £50,000 if they fail to comply with new rules to offer employees access to stakeholder pensions.

That was the shock warning delivered to delegates at a Bolton and Bury Chamber stakeholder pension lunch.

Nick Robinson, pensions development manager for Norwich Union, gave a thorough appraisal of the new stakeholder pension scheme which will be available from April.

Under the initiative, every employer with five staff or more must make the scheme available to their workforce by October.

Companies which operate suitable pension schemes for their staff may, however, be exempt.

Employers are not required to make any financial contribution to the stakeholder pension but must designate an approved supplier who is required to operate the scheme for a flat fee of one per cent.

Guests were advised on how to prepare sooner rather than later for the new scheme to allow consultants time with staff and to make the necessary changes to their payment system.

They were also recommended to seek independent financial advice in selecting a suitable scheme.

The Chamber's popular event, which was supported by Farnworth Thomasson and Co and the Ravens Wood Consultancy, will be repeated in the near future.

Bury businesses wishing for more information should contact Joan Bath at the Chamber on 01204 374683.