PensionsJan 31 2023

Call for employers to improve workplace pension communications

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Call for employers to improve workplace pension communications
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Think tank Phoenix Insights is calling on the government to make it a legal duty for employers to inform staff of the impact that any changes in their working hours -and resultant earnings - may have on their pension contributions.

Phoenix Insights' research, conducted by Opinium between 24 to 29 November, found that one third of women (32 per cent) reduce their hours for an extended period at points during their working lives.

The report is the second of two reports which analyse women’s long-term finances through the lens of the workplace and look at how the life events that women may encounter affect their working patterns, choices, and consequently their ability to save.

To help narrow the gender pension gap and based on the findings of the report, Phoenix Insights is making a number of calls to action from the government.

Catherine Foot, director of Phoenix Insights, said: “Women are being left behind in their pay and pension saving at key life stages and decisive action is needed to reform current policies and practices to support businesses and individuals in addressing saving inequality. 

“Alongside employers, our research with IES highlights the need for the government to increase their efforts to close the gender pension gap.”

Foot said efforts should be focused on improving pension policy, providing better support for employers and introducing legislative protections for women at life events.

“We have identified key recommendations for these areas, including better pension accessibility and information, boosting financial literacy, and improving access to care and flexible working,” she said.

“Coordinated cross-departmental action to reform policy at the points which make the biggest impact to women’s working lives will lead to meaningful progress on the gender pension gap.”

Over half (55 per cent) of women would like to receive more information about their workplace pension from their employer, and more regular communication that goes beyond the mandatory minimum.

According to the research, this is seen as important to increase pension engagement.

The analysis found government action to improve pension policy, support employers and introduce legislative protections that help keep women in employment across different life stages, will help to increase saving capacity and close the gender pension gap.

Key recommendations for the government to close the gender pension gap:

Pension accessibility and information

Expand the legal requirement for employers on pension communications to include information such as how contractual changes (e.g. changes to hours/earnings) will impact pension contributions.

Increase the scope of auto enrolment by lowering the age threshold to 18 and the earnings threshold to £0.

Boost financial literacy

Increase the coverage and reach of impartial guidance by making free Pension Wise appointments accessible to anyone (currently over 50s only).

Review the advice and guidance boundary to allow a larger population to have access to tailored and reliable financial support.

Access to care

Revisit the Carer’s Leave Bill to ensure that working carers can access up to 10-days statutory paid leave.

Right to flexible working

Flexible working should be available from the first day of employment, and the number of exceptional circumstances should be reduced from eight to two.

Phoenix said the recommendations are set against the backdrop of the research which revealed one in five women (20 per cent) have opted out of a workplace pension scheme. 

Of those that opted out, 36 per cent of women did not consider the impact that opting out of their pension would have at the time of their retirement or the loss of benefits at retirement.