The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has laid out six principles for defined contribution (DC) pensions to address the current "mixed" standards across the market.
The watchdog urged the industry to comment on the set of principles (below), which it said would form the basis of its regulatory approach as auto-enrolment begins.
The six points span the life cycle of a DC scheme, from scheme design and set-up through to ongoing management, including monitoring of governance, accountability, administration and member communication.
TPR chief executive Bill Galvin said many schemes currently provide members with "poor value for money" and the situation needed to change.
He said the body was keen to work with the pensions industry and other stakeholders to develop the principles and planned to publish further tools and guidance on what good DC looks like next year.
Galvin added: "All schemes should be designed and run in their members' best interests, and be capable of delivering a good outcome. But at present DC standards are mixed with too many schemes providing poor value for money.
"We want to work with the pensions sector to establish a shared understanding of what a good DC scheme looks like and for all schemes to be able to meet these standards.
"This will help employers to feel confident that they are choosing a quality scheme for their workforce, and for members to feel confident that their pension pots are safe and well-managed."
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) head of employee relations and pensions policy Jim Bligh said while it was hard to disagree in principle, the small print would be all important.
"The regulator puts all of the responsibility onto the shoulders of pension providers and employers. In DC schemes employees also have responsibility to keep track of their investments.
"Businesses have had a bad experience with the regulation of defined benefit schemes and employers will be looking for reassurance from the regulator that it won't be repeating this mistake."
According to the regulator the six principles for good design and governance of workplace DC schemes are:
Principle 1 - Schemes are designed to be durable, fair and deliver good outcomes for members.
The regulator said this principle will cover the features necessary in a scheme to deliver good outcomes for members, including features such as the provision of a suitable default fund, transparent costs and charges, protected assets and sufficient protection for members against loss of their savings.
Principle 2 - A comprehensive scheme governance framework is established at set-up, with clear accountabilities and responsibilities agreed and made transparent.
This includes identifying key activities which need to be carried out, and ensuring each of the activities has an ‘owner' who has the necessary resources to carry out the activity.
Principle 3 - Those who are accountable for scheme decisions and activity understand their duties and are fit and proper to carry them out.
This principle will ensure that those who are given accountability or responsibility for a key governance task are able to carry this out. The principle will cover definitions of fitness and propriety for accountable parties and also conflicts of interest that may arise.
Principle 4 - Schemes benefit from effective governance and monitoring through their full lifecycle.
This principle looks at the ongoing governance and running of the scheme, including the internal controls and monitoring needed to ensure that the scheme continues to meet its objectives, and continues to be run with the best interests of its membership in mind.
Principle 5 - Schemes are well-administered with timely, accurate and comprehensive processes and records.
This principle will be informed by our previous work on record keeping, looking specifically at the administration processes required in a DC scheme.
Principle 6 - Communication to members is designed and delivered to ensure members are able to make informed decisions about their retirement savings.
This includes all communications to members during their time with the scheme - from joining through to making decisions about converting their pension pot into a retirement income, including promotion of the Open Market Option.
TP said principles 1 to 3 are all relevant at scheme set up and therefore are most relevant to product and service providers and those advising employers on scheme selection.
It added principles 4 to 6 cover activities which are likely to remain relevant through the life of a scheme and therefore could involve all parties included in scheme provision, including providers, administrators, trustees, employers and even members.
The regulator said if schemes follow these principles in their design, set-up and ongoing operations it will help them to deliver the six elements necessary for members to receive good outcomes, which it previously identified:
Appropriate decisions with regards pension contributions.
Appropriate investment decisions.
Efficient and effective administration of DC schemes.
Protection of scheme assets.
Value for money.
Appropriate decisions on converting pension savings into a retirement income.
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