Changes to pensions auto-enrolment

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) reports that in the first part of 2017 alone, 136,000 small and micro employers began complying with their new responsibilities under the pensions auto-enrolment regime. That’s an average of one every 57 seconds. But with change ahead, it’s important to keep up to date with developments.

The latest important deadline is 1 October 2017, as the regime enters a new phase, with no lead-in time for new employers to comply. From 1 October, any employer taking on staff for the first time immediately comes within the rules. Those who have employed staff before 30 September 2017 have different deadlines – see the ‘Duties Checker’ section on the TPR site, goo.gl/TXS6T5

Ongoing duties

The first step in employer compliance involves assessing staff on the basis of age and earnings. Staff aged between 22 and State Pension age, who earn over £10,000 pa, (£833 per month or £192 weekly), must be put in a pension scheme, to which both employer and employee contribute.

But employer involvement doesn’t stop there. If staff don’t need to be put into a scheme, there’s still a declaration of compliance to be made, and ongoing duties, including keeping track of employees’ age and earnings each time they are paid, managing requests to leave or join a pensions scheme, and a three-year cycle involving re-enrolling employees who have opted out.

Next developments

The next major change to the regime is the increase in contribution rates from April 2018. From 6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019, employer minimum contribution increases to 2%, and from 6 April 2019 onwards, it rises again, to 3%.

Failure to comply can result in fines and being named and shamed on the TPR website. TPR is particularly vigilant regarding compliance: it has warned that it will prosecute for failure to provide information in the course of its investigations, and has initiated a first prosecution where an employer is held to have deliberately failed to put staff in a workplace pension.