The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published guidance on pension dashboards’ connection, setting out by when medium and large-size schemes will need to be connected.

The first connection deadline was initially set for 31 August 2023, however in June last year the then pensions minister Laura Trott announced the dashboard connection would be delayed to 31 October 2026, recognising that more time was needed to deliver the “complex build”, and for the pensions industry to help facilitate the successful connection of a wide range of different IT systems to the dashboards digital architecture.

The guidance published yesterday afternoon sets out a staged timetable for occupational pension schemes and personal and stakeholder providers to be connected to the pensions dashboards ecosystem and be in a position to process ‘find’ and ‘view’ requests.

A further guidance issued by the Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) will provide further detail on the process of connecting to the pensions dashboards ecosystem including, but not limited to, when to contact the PDP and the onboarding process.

The timeline is driven by the number of ‘relevant members at reference date’ which for occupational schemes is the number of members per scheme at the year end date in the period between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024.

For larger schemes with 20,000 or more members, the deadline was set for 30 April 2025, but this connection deadline varies between 30 April 2025 and 30 November 2025 depending on the scheme type and number of members.

For medium-sized schemes with between 750 and 999 members, the connection deadline was set at 31 January 2026, but this connection deadline varies between 31 January 2026 and 30 September 2026, depending on the scheme type and number of members.

According to pensions minister Paul Maynard, this guidance will help smooth the process of connecting the approximately 3,000 pension schemes and providers in scope by the connection deadline of 31 October 2026.

Paul Maynard

Paul Maynard, UK pensions minister

He said: “The timetable prioritises connection of the largest pension schemes and providers, so that crucial user testing can quickly take place at scale, with the first cohort expected to have completed connection by the end of April 2025.

He added that while the timetable is not mandatory, it is a legal requirement that trustees or managers of occupational pension schemes and providers of personal and stakeholder pensions have regard for this guidance.

Schemes have until 8 August 2024 to apply for deferred connection but will only be granted a delay if they have started a data transfer to a new administrator or recently entered into a new contract retendering the administration of the scheme – changing administrators alone is not a sufficient reason for deferring.

Maynard added that the government is “absolutely” committed to delivering pensions dashboards safely and securely to the public at the earliest opportunity.

He said: “The publication of the connection timetable marks a significant milestone towards launching pensions dashboards, and takes us closer to introducing a service that has the potential to transform how individuals plan for retirement.”

‘Useful clarity’

The guidance gives the pension industry “useful clarity” on when they are expected to meet their connection obligations, said Nigel Peaple, director of policy and advocacy at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA).

He added: “This is a complex and difficult task but the sector is keen to do it as way of helping their scheme members better understand retirement saving.”

Paul McGlone, past president of the Society of Pension Professionals (SPP), partner at Aon and dashboard lead, said that with so much uncertainty surrounding the project since it was “reset” over a year ago, it’s helpful to see firm dates now published.

“What we would like to see next is progress on other areas of dashboards, particularly finalising the various standards so that all parties know exactly what is required of them”

Paul McGlone, partner at Aon and dashboard lead

“We agree with the government’s assessment that the pensions industry is making good progress, and the publication of dates will act as a catalyst for more activity. What we would like to see next is progress on other areas of dashboards, particularly finalising the various standards so that all parties know exactly what is required of them,” he suggested.

Karl Lidgley, client manager third party administration at Hymans Robertson, said: “There are still a few pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, but schemes now know when they are required to connect. We also expect PDP to issue the final data standards shortly, which will allow finalisation of builds into the required systems.”

Dave Poynton, product manager at Equisoft and newly appointed PDP advisory board member, added that the timetable will give certainty to the project and enable pensions administrators to get board approval for their PDP projects to re-start as soon as possible.

But he pointed out that even those companies that have not paused their projects will face challenges given the scale and complexity of the operational processes of the PDP.

Read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine