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Our approach to regulating

The Pension Regulator (TPR) aims to drive up standards and tackle risk by engaging with the pension schemes we regulate.

We are responsible for regulating defined benefit, master trusts or broader defined contribution schemes and public service pension schemes. We are also responsible for ensuring that employers comply with their automatic enrolment duties.

Our regulatory approach is systematic and enables us to respond to the unexpected where it is appropriate to do so.

Regulatory approach

Taking into account the main risks we see in the landscape we have four key areas we focus on:

  1. Setting clearer expectations: We are working with those we regulate to ensure that the standards we expect are clear and are adopted. We aim to ensure that pension schemes and employers comply with clear, measurable standards.
  2. Identifying risk early: We aim to reduce risks to members from increasing over time through prioritisation, monitoring, supervision and early proactive intervention.
  3. Driving compliance through supervision and enforcement: We use a wide range of regulatory interventions with those we regulate. We test, measure and adapt the way we work and publish our actions to continue to drive behavioural change.
  4. Working with others: We work with our regulatory partners and stakeholders to deliver a comprehensive and consistent regulatory framework.

These key areas form the bedrock of our operating model, which help us work in the most effective way.

How we regulate schemes

Supervision enables us to have contact with the trustees, managers and sponsoring employers of pension schemes.

It helps us to monitor schemes closely, clearly outline what we expect and act quickly where we have concerns.

We take into account the Regulators’ Code and the principles of good regulation. We have also implemented the Business Impact Target which aims to reduce the burden of regulation on business.

How we regulate employers

We are responsible for maximising compliance with the employer automatic enrolment duties and employment safeguards in the Pensions Act 2008 Act, as well as protecting the benefits of members of work-based pension schemes.

Our powers

Our powers fall into three categories:

  • gathering information
  • regulatory and enforcement action
  • acting against avoidance

Gathering information

We gather information from a number of sources to help us identify and monitor risks. These include:

Where the law allows, we share information with other public bodies. This includes the Pension Protection Fund, HM Revenue and Customs, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions.

We use the information we gather to find and look into potential problems.

Regulatory and enforcement action

We can choose from a range of options if we need to take regulatory and enforcement action. These include:

  • issuing notices that require individuals, companies or third parties to take specific action within a certain time
  • recovering late or missing payments from an employer on behalf of a scheme
  • banning trustees who we don’t consider fit and proper for the role
  • issuing fines for breaches of the law
  • prosecuting certain offences in the criminal courts
  • appointing a trustee to a scheme to enable it to be run effectively

Acting against avoidance

We have powers to act where an employer with a defined benefit scheme tries to avoid their pension obligations. In some cases, the target for TPR action may include those associated or connected to the employer. For more information, read about our anti-avoidance powers.

Risk-based approach

We take a risk-based approach to regulating. We judge risks by:

By gathering and analysing information, we can monitor risks and emerging trends. Where appropriate, we step in to prevent these from crystallising or to minimise their effect.

We will not intervene in all situations. We prioritise by risk, cost and potential benefits so that we take targeted and proportionate action. This takes into account our responsibilities and priorities.

We share information on risks of mutual interest with other public bodies. We have a joint regulatory strategy with the Financial Conduct Authority to regulating the pensions and retirement income sector.

We measure how we’re doing using key performance indicators set out each year in our corporate plan. We regularly review our approach to risk and make changes when we need to.

Education and guidance

We provide support in the form of guidance and tools on our website. These help people to understand and fulfil their duties.

The materials and services we provide include:

We work closely with other public bodies so that we co-ordinate our approach to education and guidance.

We also work with employers, providers and trustees to resolve issues. This includes taking steps to identify problems at an early stage and enabling those we regulate to find solutions.

Engaging with others and being transparent

We engage with a range of stakeholders. These include:

  • trustees
  • employers
  • pension providers and advisers, such as actuaries
  • legal professionals
  • consumer and member organisations

We aim to have an effective dialogue with these people. We value their views and feedback which shapes the way we work.

We engage with them through different channels including:

  • stakeholder advisory panels
  • annual stakeholder conferences
  • annual customer satisfaction surveys
  • other formal and informal discussions on our regulatory approach and policy

When carrying out consultations, we take account of the government consultation principles available on GOV.UK.

We are committed to being open and transparent in our activities. For details of what information we publish and how to ask us for other information, go to freedom of information (FOI).

We publish details on how we have performed each year in our annual report and accounts.

To provide feedback on our policies, guidance and approach, you can contact us.

Enforcement options

We have a number of enforcement options available to us. We act fairly and proportionately when we use our powers. We aim to carry out regulatory and enforcement action in an efficient and timely manner.

When we take enforcement action our staff and the Determinations Panel follow certain case procedures.

For more information on how we regulate and enforce, read our strategies and policies.