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Charles Counsell awarded OBE for services to workplace pension reform

Ref: PN16-59
Friday 30 December 2016

Charles Counsell, Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment at The Pensions Regulator (TPR), has been awarded an OBE for his services to workplace pension reform in the 2017 New Year Honours List.

Mr Counsell continues to lead an ambitious and challenging programme to ensure employers meet their pension duties. To date more than 340,000 employers have successfully enrolled seven million people into a workplace pension.

Working closely with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Mr Counsell has overseen a major campaign to educate and enable employers of all sizes via direct communications, a suite of online information and tools and a dedicated contact centre.

Compliance rates amongst small and micro employers remain above 95% – demonstrating the effectiveness of TPR’s communications to employers including 'nudge' letters and emails, awareness raising with trade associations and business networks, and a national advertising campaign in partnership with DWP.

Mr Counsell said: “I am delighted to receive this award which recognises the commitment and expertise of my colleagues to ensure that automatic enrolment successfully meets the challenge of creating a new and robust culture of saving in the UK.

“Automatic enrolment has reversed a worrying trend of under-saving for retirement amongst workers, and I am proud that we have played a role in educating employers that putting staff into a pension is now the social norm.

“In 2017 will see the largest number of employers so far – more than a million – meet their pension duties and we will act where necessary to ensure compliance remains high.

“We also look forward to taking part in the Government’s review of automatic enrolment which will examine how the policy might be expanded to ensure even more people save for their retirement.”

TPR Chair Mark Boyle said: “I congratulate Charles Counsell on this well-deserved honour which acknowledges the great efforts he and his team have put into delivering the automatic enrolment programme, on time and with almost universal compliance, bringing clear benefits to millions of workers.”

Also honoured from TPR is actuary Andrew Young, who receives an OBE for services to pension policy and pensioners. This is recognition of the key role he has played in a number of fundamental legislative and policy changes to pensions including the development of scheme specific funding for DB schemes, the design of the Pension Protection Fund and the Young Review of the Financial Assistance Scheme.

Editor's notes

  1. The first workers were automatically enrolled into pension schemes in 2012 starting with the largest employers. The policy was introduced to address under-saving with millions not putting aside enough for retirement, and only one in three private sector workers paying into a workplace pension. Around two thirds of all employers have still to act. More than a third of these are employers with only one or two members of staff.
  2. The latest analysis by DWP (published on 1 December 2016) estimates there will be an extra £17 billion of workplace pension saving per year as a result of automatic enrolment by 2019/20.
  3. The Pensions Regulator’s fourth annual commentary and analysis (PDF, 914kb, 45 pages) shows how automatic enrolment continues to help turn around the historic decline in pension provision. Two thirds of all employees are now active members of a pension scheme, compared with just 47% in 2012.
  4. Charles Counsell biography

    Charles joined the Board of TPR in July 2011 as Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment, having served as the interim Executive Director for six months prior to that.

    He has been responsible for developing and implementing TPR’s approach to employer compliance. This focuses heavily on educating and enabling employers using online information and tools, a substantial programme of direct communications to every employer in the country and via a dedicated contact centre. It has also included a comprehensive programme of education to the pensions and payroll industries and to advisers of employers.

    Charles works closely with DWP on the roll out of automatic enrolment, as well as with other parts of government including HMRC.

    The approach has led to millions of workers at hundreds of thousands of employers across the country saving for their retirement in a workplace pension. It is a major social change leading to pensions saving becoming the norm in all employers across the UK.

    Previously Charles worked as the programme manager on TPR’s culture change initiative from 2006 to 2007, and since 2008 as the programme manager leading the design and delivery of automatic enrolment.

    Prior to joining TPR, Charles spent 15 years setting up and leading major business change programmes in both the public and private sectors. Many of these programmes have been international, including work in South Africa, the United States, the Middle East and in Europe.

    Charles is also a trustee of South Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau.

  5. TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to 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 TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).

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