Equality, diversity and inclusion: welcome progress but further to go

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy sets out an ambitious roadmap for change.

The strategy outlines the steps we are now taking to move towards a fairer and more inclusive culture across the pensions industry.

We have pledged to lead by example and embed diversity and inclusion throughout our own organisation and support our regulated community to do the same.

As the UK regulator of workplace pensions and as an employer, we have been on this journey for some time, but we know there is much more to do.

Crucial to bringing about lasting change is measuring our progress and ensuring we are transparent about the impact our equality, diversity and inclusion work is having.

Our recently published equality objectives progress report outlines what we have achieved since we published our EDI strategy in June 2021.

People and culture

We have been striving to continually improve the data we hold about our people working at TPR, so that it provides a more accurate and clearer picture of our workforce. This information is being used to better understand colleagues’ experiences and measure our progress towards change.

We have also reviewed our internal equal opportunities approach and our reward and recruitment processes to enable best practice and attract talented people from diverse backgrounds.

Our review is paving the way to ensure we have a consistent, fair and inclusive approach to recruitment and reward through our policy, guidance, tools and management training.

Our new five-year People and Culture Strategy seeks to cement our work to revise our values and behaviours framework.

The strategy focuses on creating a culture of equality and inclusion where people feel safe to be themselves, are empowered to do their best work and have the opportunities they need for progression and development.

The programme we have put in place to deliver this strategy will work towards achieving more diverse leadership teams through improved recruitment processes and equal opportunities, and will also strengthen our leadership framework regarding conduct and standards. To assist this work and implement our plans, we have also recently recruited a dedicated EDI lead and a reward specialist.

Working with and supporting industry

As set out in our EDI strategy, we want to see all savers get good value for money and that decisions made on their behalf stand up to scrutiny. Improving diversity and inclusion of governing bodies is essential to that.

Over the past two years we have been working with our diversity and inclusion Industry Working Group (IWG) to explore how we can support the pensions industry to become fairer and more diverse.

We recently published an action plan in partnership with the IWG to improve diversity and inclusion across pension scheme governing bodies.

The plan sets out steps we, together with the IWG, will take to encourage and support trustees to recruit diverse candidates and create a culture of inclusion.

It outlines our commitment to work with the group to produce guidance for trustees and employers. We will also be providing practical tools on recruiting diverse candidates, creating and maintaining an inclusive culture, engaging with employers on diversity and ensuring communications to scheme savers are inclusive.

The action plan also sets out how we will develop a mechanism for collecting and using diversity data in the longer term to measure progress and set clear EDI expectations in our upcoming single code of practice.

Scheme supervision

Our action plan also highlights how we’ll continue to engage directly with governing bodies, through our supervision approach to identify barriers to diversity and highlight best practice.

We are engaging with trustees about EDI, and hope to use that to gain valuable insight into the issues schemes face when working towards greater diversity and inclusion within their organisations. It gives us an opportunity to identify good and best practice, identify barriers and understand which trustees are engaging with our guidance.

So far, we have heard from trustees that barriers to change include complex scheme structures, slow rotation of trustees, long tenures and a need to ensure new trustees have strong industry knowledge so that they can govern effectively.

Through our supervision, we have been encouraging schemes to explore ways they can gather, interpret and use data to bring about change across their organisations, including updating their recruitment processes to improve board diversity.

As well as improvements to recruitment processes, we have also supported schemes to review their succession planning and to implement skills and board effectiveness assessments to ensure boards are made up of capable trustees from diverse backgrounds.

Anecdotally, we have found that where the chair of trustees is committed to change, this is a good indicator that a scheme will more successfully implement measures to improve diversity and the robustness of decision making for all savers.

We can see from our engagement with industry that while change is not easy and may take time, many trustees are showing increasing willingness to embrace diversity and inclusion. They appreciate how crucial these priorities are to ensuring that decision making reflects the needs of all savers.

We know we have a long way to go both within our organisation and across the industry to improve EDI. We also know progress is not always as fast as we’d like and that it is not always in a straight line. However, as shown in the varied work set out in this blog, we are committed to leading by example and we welcome the growing commitment and momentum across industry to embed a culture of diversity and inclusion, so that all savers are protected.

By David Fairs, Executive Director of Regulatory Policy, Analysis and Advice