Increased communications boosting scheme standards - TPR

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has claimed its increased communications are ensuring that more trustees are negotiating higher employer pension contributions.

A newly published bulletin from the regulator stated that more than half of lay and professional trustees said letters from TPR concerning their responsibilities had helped them ensure the pension scheme is treated fairly.

The communications are part of an initiative which is aiming to drive up governance standards by directing trustees to take specific action based on risks that have been identified.

TPR contacts schemes in writing, making clear what its expectations are, then gives trustees time to act, during which the regulator provides guidance and support,

TPR added that if it doesn’t see changes following this period then it would be “prepared to take whatever enforcement action is needed”.

TPR director of supervision, Mike Birch, said: “We are writing to hundreds of trustees to remind them of their duties and make it clear what we expect of them. It is early days but we are seeing encouraging results with a very high proportion of schemes responding positively to our communications, which is driving better outcomes for savers.

“Where we don’t see an appropriate response we are engaging directly with trustees and employers to address scheme risks. Communicating directly to large numbers of schemes means we are helping to make pensions safer for savers in all sizes and type of scheme.”

Thus far, the initiatives have focused on fair treatment, lengthy recovery plans, investment governance and record-keeping.

Future initiatives will check trustee levels of knowledge and understanding, with trustees that fail to meet appropriate levels of understanding being expected to improve or appoint an independent trustee.

TPR said it may take action “where trustees fail to improve in response to our regulatory initiatives”.

Its bulletin also revealed that, since the start of automatic enrolment, a total of 179,801 compliance notices, 105,556 fixed penalty notices, 32,157 escalating penalty notices and 55,266 unpaid contribution notices have been issued.

In the last quarter, 60 inspection notices have been issued as part of TPR’s compliance validation inspections, bringing the total issued so far to 1,828.

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