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A year of lockdown shows a resilient regulator supporting the industry and its own staff

Ref: PN21-21

Issued: Wednesday 21 July 2021

Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) continued its clear, quick and tough approach to respond to the needs of the pensions industry and meet its objectives, according to its Annual Report and Accounts for 2020-21 (PDF, 5mb, 148 pages).

The report highlights how TPR provided clear guidance and easements to help protect savers and employers during the pandemic. In addition, it made positive progress in preparing for new legislation set out in the Pension Schemes Act 2021 while launching a bold new strategy to put the saver at the heart of all its work.

TPR Chair Sarah Smart said: “This has been an extraordinarily tough year for everyone and I am immensely proud of how TPR has risen to the challenge. Our staff provided essential support to schemes and employers as they battled the impact of the pandemic, and have shown great resilience to plan for new responsibilities given to us under the Pension Schemes Act, push on with significant changes internally and launch a new strategy to protect savers. This strategy brings key priorities such as climate change and value for money sharply into focus.

“The road ahead will be no less bumpy as the fallout from the pandemic continues to be felt across our industry. But through the prudent use of resources, and the same determination, I know we will work efficiently and smartly to prioritise our activities, reach our targets and deliver robust regulation.”

The Annual Report and Accounts highlights several key successes for 2020-21, including:

  • providing and communicating guidance to help tens of thousands of employers, trustees and scheme members through the challenges of the pandemic
  • responding to the challenges of COVID-19 by easing burdens on schemes, employers and providers and increasing engagement to provide support
  • publishing new guidance for trustees and sponsoring employers of defined benefit (DB) schemes on what they need to consider when proposing to transfer to a superfund
  • calling on trustees, administrators and providers to pledge to combat pension scams and meet anti-scam best practice. So far, more than 320 organisations have taken this pledge
  • publishing a policy on ending enforcement action more quickly if the targets of its action come up with an acceptable proposal and help scheme members achieve a good outcome without the need for legal proceedings
  • launching a 15-year corporate strategy that puts actions behind the overarching theme of 'putting the saver at the heart of everything we do'
  • the extradition of an alleged fraudster from Spain, securing a confiscation order to force charity boss Patrick McLarry to pay back over £280,000 to the scheme he stole from, and a £35 million settlement on our anti-avoidance case against the owners of bed manufacturer Silentnight

TPR Chief Executive Charles Counsell, said: “In a year in which we have all been tested like never before, I am delighted that we continued to deliver successfully against our statutory objectives to protect savers and make workplace pensions work.

“We responded quickly to introduce vital easements on automatic enrolment and DB funding. We forged ahead with new and complex work, including the launch of guidance for superfunds and stepping up the fight against scams. The supervisory relationships we have built with schemes meant we were in regular dialogue, both to support schemes and to hear first-hand their challenges. However, we did not ease up on our determination to prosecute fraudsters who threaten savers’ retirements. And we were swift to introduce new operational measures to allow all our staff to work effectively from home.

“Our new corporate strategy is a blueprint for the future of pensions regulation over a 15-year horizon, delivered by an ambitious rolling corporate plan which sets clear and challenging targets. I am confident that our dedicated staff, who have worked so hard to adapt to a new environment, will ensure we meet these targets and deliver on the priorities we have set out.”

Notes for editors

  1. TPR’s COVID-19 easements received broad support from stakeholders, and TPR’s perceptions tracker research (PDF, 2.1mb, 34 pages) found that around 90% of respondents found its guidance useful, and while only a small proportion of these used an easement, those who did found it helpful.
  2. TPR met, or almost met, nine out of 11 of its key performance indicators for 2020-21. The two not achieved were:

i) We will adapt and roll-out our administration strategy in light of the risks presented by COVID-19. Note: Resource constraints have meant the work on the administration strategy is currently on hold as our teams were impacted both by COVID-19 leave and reprioritising our activity to respond to the highest risks. On balance against enforcement activity, we agreed this work could be delayed. Recruitment has however been prioritised to restart this key activity in 2021-22 to support our program of recovery.

ii) We will commence the design and implementation of new systems to support our regulatory functions. Note: The second foundational release of the data platform was successful, with a third on track for summer. Deployment of Sharepoint and CRM phase one was pushed back from the Easter weekend following delays to testing. The DB scheme return portal was built but did not meet Government Service Standard in time for the 2021 release window.

  1. The Pensions Regulator is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).

Press contacts

David Morley

Media Officer (DB)
01273 662091

Matt Adams

Senior Media and Parliamentary Manager
01273 662086

Out of hours

This is for journalists only with a media enquiry. The below number will divert to our on call media officer.
01273 648496

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