Employers whose dividend to deficit recovery contribution (DRCs) ratios fall outside the "normal range" should expect to see higher regulatory scrutiny, although no fixed ratio will be set.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) said, while it plans to be clearer about its expectations, intervention over dividends will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Guidance on what it considers a normal range set out in its updated defined benefit (DB) funding code next year, chief executive Lesley Titcomb said.
Informal consultation is already underway about what this should look like, she said, with an ambition to ensure schemes are getting a "fair share" of company profits.
Speaking at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) annual conference yesterday (18 October), Titcomb said schemes which are "not as well funded as we think [they] should be" would encounter more searching questions.
She said: "In terms of setting out more examples of what that means, we will be doing that through the work we will be doing with our funding code… and it will be an example of us being clearer about what we expect and about what the parameters of normal looks like.
"Does that mean we will be setting a single dividend-to-DRC ratio? No it does not.
"We will be asking schemes who fall outside the normal range why that is… and then we will have to decide whether we accept that explanation or not."
In August, Professional Pensions revealed TPR was putting DB schemes and sponsors under more pressure to agree dividend-sharing mechanisms, where DRCs will be uplifted at a set proportion to dividends if the latter breaches a set threshold.
Separately in the session, Titcomb urged schemes to "constantly engage" with their sponsors over the potential risks arising from Brexit, but noted that all are "suffering from a degree of uncertainty".
"It is about the longer-term impact on the economy," she said. "Schemes and trustees need to be thinking about how you manage that uncertainty, which is about contingency planning."
She continued: "For DB schemes, it is about getting the best level of funding. For all types of schemes, it is going to be about investment choices."
Writing in Professional Pensions earlier this week, BDO partner Andy Palmer said schemes should urgently be undertaking contingency planning ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit, noting "forewarned is, of course, forearmed".
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