Millions more saving for retirement
The number of workers saving in workplace pensions has risen by 70% since the introduction of auto enrolment in 2012, according to a new report from the Department of Work and Pensions.
At the end of September 2015 more than 5.7m workers had been enrolled onto schemes by over 60,000 employers and in April 2014 the number of eligible employees saving in a workplace pension had risen to 13.9 million.
Patrick Connolly, a chartered financial planner at Chase De Vere, said the report was encouraging, but it’s only the start of a long journey: “Auto enrolment is working in so far as more people are saving but where it isn’t working is that people are not saving enough.
“Minimum levels are too low and some employers will only be offering it because they have to,” he added.
As its name suggests, auto-enrolment signs all eligible employees into a workplace pension without consultation. If they do not want to participate they must actively opt out. The introduction is being phased with the largest employers starting in October 2012 through to the smallest employers by February 2018.
Minimum contributions are currently 2% of eligible earnings, of which 1% must be paid by the employer. In October 2018 this will rise to 8% with 3% coming from the employer.
At this stage the DWP anticipates that the amount being saved into workplace pensions will increase by around £15 billion a year. In 2014 the total amount saved by UK workers was £80.3 billion, an increase of £2.7 billion on the previous year.
Across both the public and private sectors contributions from workers accounted for 30% of total savings, 60% came from employers and 10% came from government tax relief – highlighting how cost-effective saving into a workplace pension can be.
After they have been enrolled onto the pension workers have a month in which they can opt out, alternatively they can cease active membership any time thereafter. According to the DWP, by the end of August 10% of workers had opted out during the first month, while a further 3% ceased active membership.
Larger employers report that it is unsurprisingly younger workers and low earners that are most likely to leave the scheme.
“As an industry we’re reasonably happy with these figures,” said Connolly, “but the biggest challenge comes when smaller employers start staging in. There the decision will often be left to the individual without the support offered through HR in larger companies.”
Introducing an auto enrolment scheme is a cost for employers and there had been some concern that some might reduce contributions for existing pension scheme members in a ‘levelling down’ process. However at this stage this only appears to be affecting 8% of workers according to DWP analysis.
Separately the Employers Pension Provision survey found that of those employers who see their costs rise as result of auto enrolment, 81% had no plans to change their existing pension scheme as a result. “”We’re not seeing this as a widespread problem with the employers we’re dealing with,” added Connolly.