Opperman defends inaction on self-employed pensions

Opperman defends inaction on self-employed pensions

Pension minister Guy Opperman has confessed that “there is no simple solution” for including self-employed people in auto-enrolment.

Speaking yesterday (2 October) at the Conservative Party Conference 2017 in Manchester, Mr Opperman said that if there was an easy black and white solution for this issue “any government or any opposition would be able to suggest it in a heartbeat”.

He said: “Everybody comes to us with problems, but what we really need is people coming to us with solutions.”

He guaranteed, however, that the government will be deciding soon on self-employed auto-enrolment.

The government is currently reviewing auto-enrolment, with a report expected to be publish before the end of the year.

Nevertheless, a report from the Pensions Policy Institute and Old Mutual Wealth showed that less than half of self-employed workers would meet the current eligibility thresholds for auto-enrolment.

Under the current rules, only workers which earn more than £10,000 in a single job will be auto-enrolled into a pension.

According to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), more than 8.5m more people have been saving into a workplace pension scheme due to auto-enrolment, which was launched by the government in 2012.

Mr Opperman said: “[This] is beyond any of our wildest dreams. There is no concept or prospect of this five years’ ago.”

The increase in the minimum auto-enrolment contribution, which will be raised to 5 per cent in 1 April 2018, is the key hurdle that lies before the government, he said.

“But there is no doubt whatsoever that the most important thing is that we extend auto-enrolment to the self-employed,” he added.

With a career that compasses being a self-employed jockey and a self-employed barrister, Mr Opperman said he was the classic example of those people who are in the system as self-employed with no auto-enrolment in any way.

He said: “I come from a context and a background where I think I have a genuine good understanding from an employment point of view.”

As an MP for Hexham, Mr Opperman is also familiar with self-employment in his own constituency.

He said: “It is perfectly common for many of my constituents to do not just one or two jobs, but three or four over a particular year.

“Many of them will be self-employed. That is perfectly common and exists on a regular basis.”

Mr Opperman will be discussing this matter soon with Matthew Taylor, author of the Taylor report published last July, he said.