The call to employers to get ahead with their auto-enrolment obligations has been sounded by The Pensions Regulator as up to half a million employers face their staging dates over the coming year.
Charles Counsell, the regulator’s executive director for automatic enrolment, said despite reminder letters alerting them to act, the regulator was concerned some smaller employers were leaving it too late and struggling to comply on time.
He said: “We are helping employers avoid this by alerting them in good time to their duties and giving them the tools they need to meet them. Employers should start planning 12 months before their duties start and make our website their first port of call.”
Anyone failing to prepare on time, and meet their staging, faces avoidable compliance action and fines, Mr Counsell said.
Not all employers will have staff who need to be placed into a pension scheme, however the regulator waned the employer must still inform staff about AE and complete a declaration of compliance.
He said: “Anyone who receives a letter from the regulator but does not employ any staff should still inform the Pensions Regulator.”
The call to action comes as the character Workie returns to television screens, radio and social media with the “Do not ignore the workplace pension” message.
The regulator’s step by step guide for employers can be found here.
Morten Nilsson, chief executive of Now: Pensions, said the regulator, the industry and advisers all need to continue to do everything they can to drive the ‘plan early’ message home.
He said: “Smaller companies are inevitably going to need more help and support with AE. Unlike firms that have gone before them, they are less likely to have any dedicated in-house resource and will be juggling AE with other day to day responsibilities.
“Small firms are also less likely to have the help of an expert adviser.”
Helen Dean, chief executive of Nest, said: “2016 marks an important year for AE. With the highest volumes of employers due to stage, this poses one of the biggest challenges to the industry.
“We need to make sure that AE is as straightforward as possible for employers. That means having a scheme that is adapted to meet their needs.”
Christopher Daems, director of Essex-based Cervello Financial Planning, said: “In 2016 AE will truly start to impact the small and micro business marketplace.
“With this in mind The Pensions Regulator is right to encourage employers to focus on ensuring they prepare to comply as early as possible.
“The risks for employers who prepare with little time to spare or alternatively choose to ignore their obligations, including the fines levied and the potential reputational risk, mean that it is fundamentally important to ensure that both employers and the professionals they work with tackle the challenge of AE sooner rather than later.”