We have a range of powers that we can use to protect workplace pensions. These enable us to deal effectively with risks to pension schemes and members’ savings.
We aim to prevent problems from developing in the first place while keeping the burden on those we regulate to a minimum. Where we find potential problems we may take action to educate, enable or enforce against those involved.
Our powers fall into three categories:
- gathering information
- regulatory and enforcement action
- acting against avoidance
We gather information from a number of sources to help us identify and monitor risks. These include:
- employers’ declarations that they comply with their workplace pension duties
- scheme returns
- reports about breaches of the law – known as ‘whistleblowing reports’
- funding documents from defined benefit (DB) schemes, such as recovery plans
- notifiable event reports
- research and analysis work
Where the law allows, we share information with other public bodies. This includes the Pension Protection Fund, HM Revenue & 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
- issuing a freezing order where a scheme plans to wind up so that we can look into any concerns and encourage negotiations
- 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
Acting against avoidance
We have powers to act where an employer with a DB scheme tries to avoid their pension obligations. For more information, read about our anti-avoidance powers.
We take a risk-based approach to regulating. We judge risks by:
- the threat they pose
- the extent that we can mitigate them
- our risk appetite
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 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.
Educate, enable, enforce
When we need to step in, we decide whether it’s best to take action to educate, enable or enforce. We take into account the Regulators’ Code and the principles of good regulation.
Educate and enable
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:
- automatic enrolment guidance and tools for employers
- codes of practice and regulatory guidance for trustees and scheme advisers
- Trustee toolkit and Public service toolkit online learning resources
- Exchange for trustees and advisers to report information to us
- statements setting out our views on an issue
- regulatory intervention reports on important cases
- research and analysis
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.
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.
Engaging with others and being transparent
We engage with a range of stakeholders. These include:
- 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.
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.