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What happens once I’ve sent my contribution file to Nest through SFTP?

When we receive your file we’ll check it in three ways:

  • file validation
  • member recognition
  • member data validation

Contribution schedules sent by SFTP are processed in batches. The time this takes depends on the number of members in the file.

Number of member records

Processing time


Up to 999 records

One hour

We’ll send a message to your secure Nest mailbox within an hour.

1,000 or more records

Next working day

We’ll send a message to your secure Nest mailbox on the next working day.


Batches are run from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week. If a file with up to 999 members is uploaded after 6pm, processing may not be complete until 10am the following morning. We’ll then check the file and validate the information within it.

File validation

We’ll check if the file has the correct format and structure. For example, a CSV or XML file will need to contain the correct header, details and trailer records.

We’ll also check whether all mandatory fields in the header and trailer have been filled in, whether the employer reference number can be recognised and that the payment source is correct.

Any failures will result in the whole file being rejected. You’ll need to correct any errors in the file and resubmit it.

Member recognition

Once the file validation checks have been successfully completed, Nest runs member recognition checks. This is where we check if the member records are identifiable and all members have been included in the correct contribution schedule.

Errors at this point may occur if:

  • the member is included on the wrong schedule
  • the National Insurance number for the member doesn’t match our records
  • the member has already opted out
  • you’ve previously told us the member has left your employment

Member validation

We perform data validation on every member record that passes the member recognition stage. During this process data is marked either valid or invalid.     
Records would be invalid if:

  • the contributions are above/below the expected levels - based on the agreed contribution levels for the member and the amount of earnings included in this schedule
  • contributions are zero but no reason is given. Please see Making partial or zero contributions for more information.

Once we’ve successfully processed your contribution file, you’ll receive a confirmation message in your secure mailbox. If you’ve chosen to receive return files you can log into the Nest file gateway using your SFTP client to collect the ‘successful contributions’ file. This contains a record of all successful contributions and you can check if these were made by file upload, file transfer or manually online.

You’ll receive an email to your preferred email address telling you that the contributions file is ready to collect. This file will be ready for collection by the end of the next day if it was sent before 6pm.

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