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Pensions auto-enrolment: 93% of large employers are unprepared, according to Standard Life

With just over a year to go until pensions auto-enrolment will affect larger employers, the majority (93%) do not yet have firm plans in place to meet auto-enrolment regulatory requirements, according to research from Standard Life.

Of the 200 employers surveyed online in July, just 7% had reached a decision on how they will deal with auto-enrolment, 39% had set a date by which a decision will be made and 54% did not know when they would have their plans in place.

Over half (56%) were undecided about the contribution levels they would be making for new members being auto-enrolled. Approximately a third (36%) of employers confirmed they would pay the same levels and just 5% indicated they would reduce payment for new members.

Jamie Jenkins, head of corporate strategy and proposition, Standard Life, said: "The research highlights many employers still have some big decisions to make. The majority of those surveyed will need to commence auto-enrolment at some point during 2013 and there is a great deal of planning work that needs to be undertaken. Therefore 2012 is going to be a busy year.

"Employers will be looking towards advisers to support them through the challenges and they'll also be looking to providers to deliver solutions that allow them to implement these changes as painlessly as possible."

Interestingly, half (50%) of the employers who responded were not clear as to the salary ranges of the employees who were currently not in their pension scheme.

Jenkins added: "Spending time now understanding the financial impact of auto-enrolment will help employers identify the difficult decisions that need to be made. The sooner employers start the planning process, the easier the financial and administrative transition will be."

And from an employee perspective the situation is not much better. More than half of UK workers state that they are totally unaware of the reforms to pensions coming into effect in 2012, according to research published this morning by the CIPD.

The survey reveals that the auto-enrolment pension reforms - which are due to come into effect in October 2012 - will have the greatest impact on the private and voluntary sectors, with 46% and 42% respectively stating awareness.

Among the private sector, those working in the finance sector (57%), followed by construction (54%) and professional services (50%) are most aware of the reforms.

Awareness of the reforms increases with age, but percentages are still low. Among the 18-24 age group, just three in ten (31%) of private and voluntary sector workers are aware of the changes, increasing to two in five (40%) among the 25-34 age group. The employees most aware are those aged 55 and over (57%) and those between 45-54 years of age (45%). A similar pattern is found by level of seniority, with those in non-managerial roles being less aware than those in managerial roles.

Charles Cotton, the CIPD adviser for performance and reward, said: "These findings suggest that both the Government and employers need to take a nuanced approach to communicating pension reforms to employees. With less than a year and a half to go, employee awareness is generally quite low.

"From our survey we can see the greatest challenge to communicating the reforms is among the young. A more targeted effort in communicating the changes to this group is needed to ensure they understand how the reforms will directly benefit them. The danger is that a cheap and cheerful one size-fits-all communication approach could end up costing the Government more in the long-term through a lower understanding and appreciation of retirement savings.

"Enrolling people into a workplace pension scheme is just one element of helping people pay for their retirement. We also believe that a move towards a non-means tested flat-rate pension would be beneficial to all, particularly as the removal of the default retirement age begins to take effect. Workers, employers and the Government all have an important part to play in the future of pensions."