Research from Now: Pensions shows that of the companies that are signed up with the provider, 32 per cent completed their auto-enrolment application either very close or after their staging date deadline, which passed in the second quarter of 2015.
Of these employers, 19 per cent contacted Now: Pensions within a month before their staging date, whilst 13 per cent left it until after their staging date had passed.
Around 16 per cent took action between one and two months ahead of their staging date, while six per cent looked at auto-enrolment two to three months ahead of time and 16 per cent started the ball rolling three to six months before.
In November 2013, The Pensions Regulator published recommendations for firms that they should have their pension scheme provider and advisers in place “at least” six months before staging date to avoid falling foul of their legal obligations.
Morten Nilsson, chief executive of Now: Pensions, said that so far this year a good number of employers are planning ahead, but those coming on board early are typically receiving support either from intermediaries or payroll providers.
“However, our research shows that as time goes by, an increasing number of smaller companies will be navigating auto enrolment without the benefit of an expert guide.
“Many could face fines if they are late either through lack of knowledge or because they believe their current provider will accept them, which they may not.”
Last week, regulator published guidance to help the 1.3m small and micro businesses preparing for auto-enrolment find a good quality scheme, after 20 per cent said they will not seek advice.
Mr Nilsson added: “To support these firms, and prevent them making an uninformed decision which could have a long-term impact on the financial security of their employees, pension providers need to be clear about whether they will accept these firms and The Pensions Regulator needs to drive awareness of the high quality providers available.”