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Role of the governing body

General code in force: 28 March 2024

This module forms part of our expectations for trustees of those schemes required to operate an effective system of governance, see Systems of governance.

  1. The governing body is responsible for running a scheme. The governing body may be trustees or managers of an occupational pension scheme or, in a public service pension scheme, the scheme manager. Legislation may apply to each governing body differently, depending on the type of scheme they govern.
  2. The governance of a public service pension scheme will need to take into account the differing responsibilities of the scheme manager, pension board and, where appropriate, pension committee. Each public service pension scheme should determine who fulfils the role of scheme manager according to their regulations and local arrangements. This code also sets out expectations for pension boards to help them assist the scheme manager. A pension board must have an equal number of employer and member representatives1.
  3. Those responsible for appointing members to the governing body should do so using the principles of proportionality, fairness, and transparency while also considering the mix of skills and experience needed by the governing body. As far as possible, the governing body should be well-balanced and diverse, with its members demonstrating varied skills, knowledge and experience. See also Recruitment and appointment to the governing body. The law also requires that members of certain governing bodies are fit and proper to carry out their duties2.
  4. In some cases, legislation may dictate how the governing body is made up, who can be a member and how members are appointed3,4,5. The governing body remains accountable for any functions it delegates to third parties. Read more about appointing and managing relationships in Managing advisers and service providers.
  5. Our expectations for how trustees of trust schemes6 should act can be found below. They also represent appropriate standards for the governing body of other schemes.
  6. Expected behaviours and standards:
    1. Act honestly and with integrity, competence, and capability.
    2. Act with financial probity, including in matters outside their role.
    3. Meet their legal obligations and govern their scheme properly and according to scheme rules.
    4. Act in the interest of scheme members and beneficiaries.
    5. Seek to ensure that all scheme members, whether active, deferred, drawing a pension, or in a decumulation phase, benefit from good governance, see Systems of governance.
    6. Be open and honest in their dealings with us.
    7. Have or be able to acquire the appropriate levels of knowledge and understanding (see Knowledge and understanding) and keep these up to date (see Governance of knowledge and understanding).
    8. Identify and, where relevant, challenge others on any potential or actual failure to comply with the scheme rules, regulations, and legislation (see Managing advisers and service providers).
    9. Where acting in a professional capacity, members of governing bodies should be financially sound and not be experiencing severe trading difficulties.
    10. Those acting as professional trustees should comply with our professional trustee standards and guidance, and professional codes of conduct and trustee accreditation, such as those published by the APPT and PMI.

Glossary and legal references

Active member

An employee qualifies for benefits that continue to accrue as a member of the employer’s benefits scheme.


The phase during which a member converts their pension savings into retirement income or makes a legitimate withdrawal from their pension pot.

Deferred member

A person with benefits preserved in the scheme.

Pensioner member

A person who is receiving pension payments or other benefits for their pensionable service under the scheme or through transferring into it.

Pension board

The board set up as required by section 5 of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013, to assist the scheme manager with matters set out in that section.

Scheme manager

The person responsible for managing or administering:

  • the scheme, and
  • any statutory pension scheme that is connected with it

(See section 4 of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013).

1 Section 5 of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 [Article 5 of the Public Service Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2014]

2 Section 3(1) Pensions Act 1995 [Article 3(1) Pensions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995]

3 Section 29(1) Pensions Act 1995 [Article 29(1) Pensions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995]

4 Section 5(4) of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 [Article 5(4) of the Public Service Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2014]

5 Sections 241 to 243 Pensions Act 2004 [Articles 218 to 220 Pensions (Northern Ireland) Order 2005]

6 Section 3(1) Pensions Act 1995 [Article 3(1) Pensions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995]