Working on a superyacht involves hard work, long hours and extended periods away from home. As a result, the overall pay standard for yacht crew is significantly higher than many other industries. While those money-conscious crew will have taken advantage of their generous salaries and established a personal pension or investment arrangement for later life, few yachts offer their crew a pension arrangement as part of their employment package.

Providing a good pension provision, however, can have a number of benefits for yacht owners, including greater staff retention as crew feel valued and looked after. The Ensign Retirement Plan is currently the only not-for-profit UK pension scheme designed by maritime professionals specifically for the maritime industry. A popular scheme in the wider maritime world, the Ensign Retirement Plan is now turning to the superyacht sector to encourage employers, regardless of jurisdiction, to take advantage of this dedicated maritime pension arrangement.

“The Ensign Retirement Plan is what is known as a defined contribution (DC) occupational pension plan,” explains Chair of Trustees Rory Murphy. “This means that a percentage of the employee’s pay is put into the Ensign Retirement Plan automatically every month. The employer also puts money into the Plan and, if eligible, members get tax relief from the government. Each month these amounts are added to the member’s personal retirement pot and invested until they decide to start taking their benefits.” 

As with conventional DC pension schemes, members can take some, or all, of their retirement pot at any time from the age of 55. The amount they will get at retirement depends on the amount that they and their employer has paid in, the investment fund’s performance and any charges, and the choices the member makes at retirement with regards to how they receive the Plan benefits. There is also a choice, and flexibility, in how the retirement savings can be taken and, regardless of how the benefits are taken, 25 per cent of the pot will be tax free.

“The Plan is flexible for both employer and member, providing choice in investments, contribution amounts and frequency, which allows for the seasonal nature of work in the maritime world,” adds Murphy. “Contributions, from the employee and employer, are paid monthly and are based on a percentage of the employee’s pensionable pay. The minimum contribution amounts that can be paid are 4 per cent by the employee and 6 per cent by the employer. If they want to pay in more, the rates can be tailored to their own requirements.”

Any employer can join the plan regardless of where they are based, making it an option for superyacht owners. However, Murphy points out that the Plan has been designed to support the UK maritime sector and any company associated with it, so it is primarily suitable for those domiciled in the UK and UK nationals.

It is well documented that crew retention is a major issue for the superyacht industry. While part of this could be attributed to the transient nature of the industry, it could also be linked to a lack of HR best practices. While some HR practices that are difficult to address or impractical on board superyachts, increasing the loyalty of crew through an enhanced employee package and pension arrangement is one that can be easily implemented. After all, retention of talent is easier and less expensive than the attraction of new.


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