Pensions: Joint DB & DC trustee agenda - September 2023

Welcome to our monthly update on current legal issues for trustees of DB and hybrid pension schemes, designed to help you stay up to date with key developments between trustee meetings, and to support the legal update item on your next trustee agenda. We also have a separate DC-only briefing. 

Court ruling on amending contracted-out schemes

The High Court has considered the impact of a scheme that was contracted-out on the reference scheme test (RST) basis failing to obtain an actuarial confirmation prior to an amendment (which was a requirement at the relevant time): Virgin Media Ltd v NTL Pension Trustees II and Others (read more).

The judge held that: (i) an amendment was void where it was introduced without the required confirmation; (ii) this applied to amendments to relevant rights already accrued at the time of the amendment and future service rights accrued afterwards; and (iii) the failure to obtain the actuarial confirmation voided all relevant alterations, not only those with an adverse effect.

ACTION: In some circumstances, schemes that were contracted-out on the RST basis may want to consider reviewing evidence of the necessary confirmation for past changes. However, leave to appeal has been granted, so most schemes may prefer to await future developments.

Mansion House reforms

The government published a raft of documents after the Chancellor announced pension reforms as part of his Mansion House speech (read more). The documents included calls for evidence on trustee skills, capability and culture, and options for DB schemes; responses and further consultations on choices in decumulation and the proliferation of small pots; and consultation responses on the new value-for-money framework, extending opportunities for CDC schemes, and DB superfunds.

The deadline for input on the calls for evidence and consultations is 5 September 2023 and final decisions on the various proposals will be made ahead of the Autumn Statement later this year.

ACTION: Review / ask for training on the proposals.

Dashboards update UPDATED

Regulations setting 31 October 2026 as the new dashboards connection deadline for all schemes came into force on 9 August 2023 (read more). A staging timeline for connection will be set out in guidance, rather than legislation (read more).

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has updated its guidance to reflect the revised connection timetable and set out its expectations of schemes in complying with the requirement to have regard to the staging deadline (read more). It has also published a blog post encouraging schemes to focus on data readiness (read more) and the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) has published guidance for schemes on improving the accuracy of data (read more).

The DWP has updated its guidance for schemes that are seeking a deferral of their connection deadline, to reflect the new timings (read more).

ACTION: Continue preparation for pensions dashboards, in line with the guidance.

TPR updates DB superfunds guidance NEW

TPR has updated its guidance for DB superfunds and for employers and trustees considering a superfund transfer (read more). The guidance sets out the interim regulatory regime for superfunds, pending legislation which the government has said will be brought ‘as soon as Parliamentary time allows’.

ACTION: Consult the updated guidance if you are considering a transfer to a DB superfund.

TPR blog post on protecting DC savers from economic volatility

TPR has published a blog post on supporting DC savers through the current economic environment (read more). It focuses on steps to take in relation to those closest to retirement with the least time to make up investment losses, including reviewing the default strategy and member communications. In relation to younger savers, TPR suggests schemes may want to provide additional supporting materials alongside annual benefit statements, to help savers understand the context of the figures being provided to them.

ACTION: Read the blog post and consider whether any changes are needed to support your DC members.

Watch this space

  • TPR’s new corporate plan indicates that the launch of the new DB funding code and regulatory framework has been postponed to April 2024 (read more).
  • The government has consulted on changes to the notifiable events regime. There is currently no revised date for the delayed regulations (read more).
  • TPR has consulted on its proposed single code of practice (to be known as the General Code): watch our webinar on the proposals and read TPR’s interim response. Publication of the revised version of the code is expected soon.

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This content was originally published by Allen & Overy before the A&O Shearman merger