Regulator calls on 1.8 million employers to act now
Wednesday 5 August 2015
The Pensions Regulator has issued a warning to hundreds of thousands of small and micro employers to check when they must meet new workplace pension duties.
The call to action from The Pensions Regulator follows research published today showing almost two thirds of small and micro employers still do not know the exact date they need to start complying with automatic enrolment laws.
The research, published twice a year, tracks awareness of automatic enrolment amongst employers and intermediaries, and how they are preparing to act.
The regulator estimates that, over the next two years, around 1.8 million small and micro employers will need to act as a result of automatic enrolment duties. Every employer is given a date set in law when their duties start – this is their staging date.
The latest employer survey highlights how the majority of employers due to stage between now and November 2015 have started preparing and are aware of their staging date, but that awareness amongst those due to stage in 2016 and beyond drops significantly. It also shows that most will seek the help of business advisers.
According to the intermediary research, advisers are now far better placed to help employers meet their pension duties with almost all accountants, bookkeepers and payroll administrators planning to provide a service to micro employers.
Executive director of automatic enrolment Charles Counsell said:
“It is encouraging that, according to our latest research, most small and micro employers due to stage this year are well underway with their preparations, but there is no room for complacency.
“The challenge of ensuring 1.8 million employers meet their duties by 2018 is significant and the research shows many employers are still not preparing early enough. We continue to develop new tools on our website to simplify the process for employers and we are using a diverse range of communications to reach out to employers, but my message to employers remains clear: start getting your plans in place or you risk a financial penalty.
“It is also positive that more advisers have stepped up to meet the needs of employers by developing new services, and by directing clients to the regulator’s website. I urge all intermediaries to ensure they can fulfil this vital role as more employers seek assistance.”
Key findings from the employer survey
- Nine in 10 employers staging between August and November 2015 had commenced preparation for automatic enrolment.
- Seven in 10 small employers expected to rely on an adviser to provide practical assistance with automatic enrolment.
- Most (79%) employers staging in 2015 knew their staging date. A lower proportion (29%) of employers staging between January – November 2016 accurately knew their staging date, similar to the 30% of January – April 2017 stagers who knew their staging date.
- Awareness of automatic enrolment increased among micro employers, while understanding levels increased significantly amongst both small and micro employers.
Key findings from the intermediaries survey
- There was almost universal (between 97% and 98%) awareness of automatic enrolment amongst all types of intermediaries, with bookkeepers similarly high (94%).
- The regulator was for the first time more likely to be recalled as a sponsor of advertising on automatic enrolment (70%) than the DWP (58%) and HMRC (44%).
- Payroll administrators reported a significant increase in their ability to answer clients’ questions, with 54% (up from 33%) believing they are fully able to answer queries. IFAs were most likely to report they could fully answer queries (63%), with fewer accountants (34%) and bookkeepers (20%) saying this.
- There are increasing proportions of intermediaries planning to act on behalf of their clients, as opposed to taking more passive roles of providing information or technical advice (payroll administrators 71%, IFAs 53%, accountants 44% and bookkeepers 42%).
- The vast majority (96% or more) of accountants, bookkeepers and payroll administrators planned to provide a service to micro employers, while most IFAs did (78%).
The regulator recommends that employers should start preparing for automatic enrolment 12 months ahead of their staging date. Employers should first check their staging date by using the staging date tool on The Pension Regulator’s website.
In addition, the regulator has recently launched a Facebook page making it easier for small and micro employers to seek and exchange information.
- Medium employers are those with between 50 and 249 employees and small and micro employers are those with fewer than 50. Staging dates are based on PAYE information held by regulator from HMRC on 1 April 2012 and not on current staff headcount – employers must therefore not assume they know their staging date – they must check.
- The Pensions Regulator has an ongoing process of reviewing the effectiveness of its communications to employers, both direct and indirect to ensure it meets the needs of the different audiences affected by automatic enrolment.
- The regulator is focused on an educate and enable approach and maximising employer compliance to ensure workers get the pensions contributions they are entitled to. Information on our compliance work aimed at employers can be found in: what happens if I don't comply?
- The Pensions Regulator is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. We have objectives to: protect members’ benefits; reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).
Ciara Bridge-Butler 01273 648018
Rebecca Sandles 01273 811870
Out of hours 01273 648496