Helping HR to navigate auto-enrolment

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More than 4.5 million people now have a workplace pension after auto-enrolment - marking for some the very first time they have saved. However, with only 2% of employers currently providing a workplace pension, the reforms have barely scratched the surface.

With the NAPF’s annual conference almost upon us (15-17 October 2014), what do pension schemes and employers need from the next government in order to provide pensions that millions of people can rely on for a comfortable retirement?

It is crucial the next government continues to maintain the consensus and momentum that has underpinned auto-enrolment so far. The millions of people working for small- to medium-sized employers who will be automatically enrolled after the 2015 general election deserve the same access to pension saving as those who have already been enrolled.

And workers agree. Our research found that 69% of employees felt relieved once they started saving for a pension. And 57% agreed that they trust their employer to pick a good pension scheme and manage it for them. Only 5% disagreed.

This is reflected by the fact that currently fewer than 10% of workers who have been automatically enrolled have exercised their right to opt-out – far lower than original predictions. Again, this is good news, but it’s vital that the work starts now – when organisations with as few as 60 employees begin staging – to ensure that employees of SMEs continue to see the benefit of saving into a pension.

SMEs

Auto-enrolment at the sharp end is a topic for discussion at the NAPF annual conference. SMEs and managers will discuss the challenge of introducing workplace pensions in small- and medium-sized organisations, and highlight lessons the panel has learned for the rest of the SME community.

NAPF research from 2013, Automatic enrolment one year on, carried out with some of the UK’s largest employers, found that while employers increasingly see the importance of offering good quality pensions, the preparations can be daunting. And this will only be magnified for small- to medium-sized organisations that may have never provided a workplace pension scheme, and need to find out what they have to do, where to go for more information and when they need to seek specialist advice.

Often the nuts and bolts of communicating and explaining auto-enrolment falls to the HR professional, especially in SMEs. Generally the HR department is the first point of contact for staff members with queries about pensions and is often responsible for disseminating information about pension changes to other departments. For many employers, pensions form part of the wider reward package, and communicating this to staff and prospective employees also comes under the HR remit.

But planning for auto-enrolment can be complex and while they do not need to be pensions experts, HR practitioners need to know the touch points for their department. For example, the choices available for their pension scheme, how workers are enrolled, how best to communicate the changes, and how to administer the process.

To help HR professionals, the NAPF annual conference includes a stream dedicated to the pensions and employee benefits space. Partnered by HR magazine, sessions will cover a whole raft of issues including the pensions reforms introduced in the Chancellor’s 2014 Budget, workers’ decision-making, case studies from across the globe and employers’ attitudes to the older worker – all from the perspective of HR and employee benefits professionals.

There are many factors to consider when delivering good quality workplace pension provision, but the conference will be an opportunity to come together with other HR professionals, employers, trustees and the wider pensions and employee benefits industry, to reflect, debate and plan how best to do this.

Plenty to consider, plenty to do – see you in Liverpool.

Joanne Segars is chief executive of the NAPF

HR magazine is a media partner of the NAPF Annual Conference 

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