Introduction to pension legislation for trustees

There are two levels of legislation:

  • primary legislation:  high level statutes called "Acts", which are passed by both Houses of  Parliament;
  • secondary legislation: created under delegated powers, usually by the relevant Secretary of State or HMRC. Secondary legislation often comes in the form of "Regulations" or "Orders" and contains the technical detail needed to support the high level principles contained in an Act.

The Courts do not create legislation but are frequently asked to interpret it.

Why should trustees be concerned with pension legislation? Legislation can override a scheme's trust deed and rules, so it is important to be are aware of when and how this can happen and how it may affect the running of a particular scheme.

The main statutes which concern occupational pension schemes are:

  • The Pension Schemes Act 1993
  • The Pension Act 1995
  • The Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999
  • The Pensions Act 2004
  • The Finance Act 2004
  • The Pensions Act 2008

This note gives a brief overview of the main areas covered by these Acts. In most cases, the statutory provisions are supplemented by detailed requirements set out in regulations. Trustees should be aware that pensions law is affected by many different areas of law, not only the pension specific legislation listed here.

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