Both the DWP and Pensions Regulator have issued consultation documents on the revised internal dispute resolution procedure (IDRP), which the DWP now intends to bring into force on 6 April 2008. The new provisions will allow, but not compel, trustees of most occupational pension schemes to replace the current two-stage IDRP with a more flexible single-stage procedure involving a determination by the trustees and give trustees a little more flexibility in relation to timescales and the operation of the procedure itself. Trustees operating an IDRP which is currently compliant will remain compliant and may continue with their existing procedure if they wish. Schemes currently exempt from the IDRP requirements will remain exempt. The Pensions Regulator is required to issue a Code of Practice relating to various “reasonable periods”.

The DWP has published draft regulations which provide for:

  • A requirement to include details of the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Pensions Ombudsman with the notification of any decision
  • An exemption from the IDRP requirements for schemes with a sole corporate trustee, where all the members are directors of that trustee company
  • Additional exemptions for certain specific disputes involving the Firefighters’ and Police Pension schemes
  • Transitional provisions to ensure any complaints already being dealt with when the new legislation comes into force will be dealt with under the under the arrangements in place when the complaint was made

The Pensions Regulator has issued for consultation a draft code of practice relating to the "reasonable periods" which will replace the current strict deadlines. The following periods are proposed, with the usual caveat as to appropriateness for the particular scheme and circumstances: 

  • Trustees should notify the applicant of the decision (at each stage) within four months of the date on which they received the application
  • Notification should take place no later than 15 working days after the decision has been made
  • Where an application is made in relation to someone who has ceased to be a "person with an interest" in the scheme (i.e. a member, survivor, prospective member, or person claiming to be in one of those categories), the applicant should make the application within six months of the date on which he ceased to be, or claims he ceased to be, a person with an interest in the scheme