Many companies, including Philips Electronics, are paying their staff early to avoid immediate problems with the millennium bug.
Philips Electronics Pensions Funds sent out a letter to its pensioners informing them that their 6 January 2000 pension instalment would be paid early, on 20 December 1999. The company said it would alleviate pensioners' worries about the bug affecting systems and leading to non or late payment.
Ian Hugo, assistant director of millennium bug pressure group, Taskforce 2000, said, "It's not just pensions. It's payroll systems generally. Most of the big outfits are doing the runs for January a month early in case there are problems in January."
"Some are paying early, some are doing the payroll calculations in advance - printing slips but holding on to the money so they know they have the wherewithal," he added.
The Philips letter said that the trustees "have received assurances from all their suppliers that their computer systems are Y2K compliant" but that "some pensioners may have concerns in this respect."
Allan Stone, group pensions manager for Philips Pension Fund, said Philips had received "one or two letters from pensioners" expressing concerns about the bug, and the decision to pay in advance was made "just in case we have a problem."
He added: "It's nearly belt and braces. We don't believe we have a problem, but if a couple of pensioners take the trouble to communicate with us, then there are more out there who are worried."
Stone admitted there will be a cost to Philips in lost interest and disruption to systems: "We have a third party administrator who will charge a few thousand pounds to change the system to pay early."
A spokesperson for trade body, the National Association for Pension Funds, said that most pension schemes "are using systems that are compliant. Many pay early before Christmas anyway, but it's a gesture to allay fears."
Hugo advised SMEs to adopt the same approach: "Smaller companies should do it. It's a hedge on anything going wrong in January 2000."
An unnamed pensioner remained sanguine, saying: "I'm not worried at all about the bug, but the money will come in handy for Christmas."
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