The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is considering plans to combine its 15 codes of practice into a single, shorter code as part of its 'clearer, quicker and tougher' initiative.
The watchdog said it wants to ensure that it is setting clear and consistent expectations for all of the schemes it regulates, while reflecting the varying legal obligations for different schemes. It said it intends to make the codes quicker to find, use and update so that pension scheme trustees and managers can be more responsive to changes in regulations.
A formal consultation on the plans is expected later in the year, and TPR said it will engage with stakeholders for feedback on the proposed design and content for the time being.
It said: "Our current intention is to develop the new code in phases, and our early focus will be on the codes most affected by the regulations."
It noted that it will review its internal controls and defined contribution codes first, including content from its public service scheme and master trusts codes as it "sets out the features of effective governance that will apply to all types of pension scheme".
Trustees will need to be able to demonstrate that they have an effective system of governance within 12 months of publication of the updated code, the watchdog said.
The announcement comes as requirements for scheme governance came into force in January as part of the UK's enactment of the EU's second directive on institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP II).
Under the regulations, trustees are expected to have an effective system of governance that is proportionate to the size, nature, scale and complexity of their scheme. This system will need to include a documented risk assessment, and the single code will reflect its expectations of this work, TPR said.
In a pensions bulletin, published today (18 July), Lane Clark and Peacock partner David Everett said: "This is an ambitious project. The regulator's website contains vast amounts of material for employers, trustees and advisers which can be hard to track down and keep on top of when it is updated. We hope that this review will reach the outcome it intends."
The consultancy said it "guestimates" that the code will be published in spring next year.
Earlier this month, TPR launched a consultation on scheme governance and trusteeship, urging "badly-run schemes" to improve or consolidate.
1) Reporting breaches of the law 2) Notifiable events
3) Funding of defined benefits
4) Early leavers
5) Reporting late payment of contributions to occupational pension schemes
6) Reporting late payment of contributions to personal pension schemes
7) Trustee knowledge and understanding
8) Member-nominated trustees/Member-nominated directors - putting arrangements in place
9) Internal controls
10) Modification of subsisting rights
11) Dispute resolution reasonable periods
12) Circumstances in relation to the material detriment test
13) Governance and administration of occupational trust-based schemes providing money purchase benefits
14) Governance and administration of public service pension schemes
15) Authorisation and supervision of master trusts
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