What is the current state of play with pensions dashboards?

pensions dashboards

Need to know:

  • The Department for Work and Pensions announced a delay to the delivery of the pensions dashboard programme in March 2023.
  • Employers should use this additional time to make sure they have their data up-to-date, in order and correct.
  • Employers should also consider their communications and resources; once the dashboard project is live, they should expect questions and queries from employees.

Pensions dashboards are coming, and will allow individuals to access all their information online and in one place. According to Kim Gubler, founder of KGC Associates and chair of the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA), the project has been one of the biggest ever done in the UK, on par with auto-enrolment.

However, the work is not over, and dashboards are not arriving quite as quickly as was originally hoped. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced a delay to the delivery of the programme in March 2023, explaining that more tests need to take place to make sure that connections between pension schemes and dashboards are robust.

This is no excuse for employers to rest on their laurels, though, and the experts working to deliver dashboards are keen to stress the importance of continuing to prepare.

It might be easy to dismiss these dashboards as solely the remit of an organisation’s pensions team, but the wider HR function also has several important roles to play.

Who will oversee the dashboards?

The dashboards will be jointly supervised by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) for trust-based schemes, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for contract-based pension schemes.

What do employers need to do?

It is much more complicated to correct the wrong data once it is with a pension provider, so employers should take the additional time ahead of the pension dashboard launch to get their data fully in order.

Geraldine Brassett, director of the technology and administrations solutions business at Willis Towers Watson, says: “Employers are at the start of the data food chain. If the quality of the dashboard’s interface data isn’t good, or the interfaces from the employer aren’t timely, either people won’t see what they need to see on the dashboard at the right time, or the data won’t match, and they’ll see the wrong information.”

There are numerous data pitfalls to look out for. Brassett gives one example from her own dashboard conversations, in which a scheme with a US parent company recorded all staff birthdays in the US date format. If that kind of data formatting is not made consistent with UK systems, those people will not match on the dashboards. Every employer will have its own quirks, and it is vital to identify and correct any information which might not match.

While employers do not have any obligation to, it might also be helpful to improve the data for deferred members – people who have left an organisation’s pension scheme – both because this is the right thing to do, and because it could minimise the queries that need to be dealt with further down the line.

Richard Smith, an independent adviser who led the UK government’s development of data standards for pensions dashboards, says: “[Employers] can go to Experian and other credit agencies to try to improve the quality of surnames on offer.”

Smith also points out that the majority of people who change their surnames are women, so there is also a gender fairness dimension to getting the data right.

How can employers help people?

A key objective of the pensions dashboards project is to get people engaged with their pensions. But with greater engagement will come more questions, which employers should be ready for.

While the ambition is for dashboards to be highly accurate, questions will inevitably arise about missing data; for example, people may wonder where one of their pension pots has gone. Employers should signpost the Pension Tracing Service, which will help people track down lost pensions.

Another key element employers need to focus on is communication. Gubler says: “The job that employers have is signposting people to the dashboards and making sure the information they provide is as right as it can be.”

The government is expected to launch an advertising campaign, but when dashboards go live, employees’ first port of call with questions could well be their HR and pensions contacts.

“As administrators, we’re expecting to see a real uptick in queries and transactions, and employers can expect to see the same,” says Brassett.

Another consideration is how dashboards might interact with employers’ existing pensions portals, Brassett suggests. At the moment, employers’ own pension portals are the only place staff can go to find out about their pension scheme. When the pension dashboards launch, people will have access to other sources of information.

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Employers should consider how to feed this information into their pension communications, to help staff understand the full range of support available to them.

So, while the dashboard may still be a way off, there is plenty of work employers can do to prepare, and doing so will make implementation much smoother in the long term.