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 regulator follows research published 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 among 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 among 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 [that] 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 and November 2016 accurately knew their staging date, similar to the 30% of January-to-April 2017 stagers who knew their staging date.
- Awareness of automatic enrolment increased among micro employers, while levels of understanding increased significantly amongst both small and micro employers.