The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is the body responsible for regulating workplace pension schemes in the UK. Where an employer operates a defined benefit trust-based pension scheme for its employees, legislation requires it to notify TPR if certain events occur. Some events must always be notified, while others only need to be notified in certain circumstances.
On 15 October, the eagerly awaited Pension Schemes Bill (the Bill) had its first reading in the House of Lords. Whilst the Bill addresses the launch of collective defined contribution (or CDC) pension schemes and includes provisions enabling pensions dashboards, employers will be particularly impacted by the new requirement on trustees to produce a funding…
A traffic policeman on motorway patrol passed a car that appeared to be driving at 11mph. The policeman pulled the car over, and asked the driver why he was going so slowly.
“I saw a sign saying that the speed limit was 11mph” said the driver. “A big blue sign, with white numbering.”
“That’s not the speed limit, that’s the road name – the M11” said the policeman. The policeman then looked at the passenger, who was sitting rigid in her seat, a rictus grin on her face. “What’s the matter with her?” asked the policeman. “Well” said the driver, “we’ve just joined the motorway from the A120.”
Interpreting laws and regulations can be difficult – particularly in highly technical areas such as pensions, where legislation can be opaque at the best of times. The Pensions Act 2004 tried to ameliorate this problem by giving the Pensions Regulator the power to flesh out legislation by issuing Codes of Practice. Codes of Practice have a special status: they have to be laid before Parliament before they come into force; they are admissible in legal proceedings; and if they appear to be relevant to the question the court has to decide, the court has to take them into account. (Albeit, on occasion, judges have “taken into account” Codes of Practice by brusquely dismissing them.)
The possibility of a Pensions Bill in the next parliamentary session should provide clarity on the funding framework for defined benefit (DB) schemes.
The Government’s white paper in March 2018 proposed that the Pensions Regulator should issue a revised code of practice focusing on how prudence is demonstrated when assessing scheme liabilities, appropriate factors for recovery plans, and ensuring that a long-term view is considered when setting the funding objective. Some or all of the funding standards contained in this revised code would be given statutory force.
You may have seen recent – sensationalist – media headlines like:
“’We’re coming for you’ – Amber Rudd’s warning for bosses reckless with employee pensions” (ITV News)
“Reckless bosses who put workers’ pensions in danger could be jailed for seven years” (The Mirror)
“Seven-year jail terms unveiled for pension fund mismanagement” (The Guardian)