Auto-enrolmentMar 16 2023

Auto-enrolment should be extended to 16 year olds, says MP

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Auto-enrolment should be extended to 16 year olds, says MP
Laura Trott, pensions minister

Automatic enrolment should be extended to everyone over the age of 16, according to David Linden, MP for Glasgow East.

Speaking at a session on the extension of automatic enrolment, Linden said AE has generally been a success for society overall.

However, he said the only real criticism of AE is that there has not been a big enough attempt to include low earners and those of all ages.

“The bill certainly makes great strides towards tackling that inequity, and it should help with some of the structural problems, such as the gender pensions gap, which does not get as much political attention as the gender pay gap."

He added: “The minister knows and, I believe, understands my long-standing interest in extending automatic enrolment to everyone over the age of 16, not 22 or even 18, and for it to kick in from the first pound earned. 

“The latter is particularly important for women, especially those who work part time and have not previously hit the threshold."

Linden explained that there are changes to the labour market, and people’s employment journeys are also changing.

“None of us—not even the chancellor—has a silver bullet suggestion for how we fix the issues relating to under-25s and over-55s not participating in the labour market at the level they were before the pandemic,” he said.

“Following our recent cross-party trip to the USA, I know that I and others on that committee certainly see apprenticeships as just one example of how we can offer a different path into the labour market.”

He explained that when exam results are sent out, politicians talk about there being no wrong path for people’s employment journeys. 

Automatic enrolment is re-establishing a culture of retirement saving for a new generationLaura Trott, pensions minister

“Some, after school, move straight into further and higher education,” he said. “Increasingly—this is my personal belief—they do so sometimes disproportionately for our economy. 

“I use this analogy to explain it to folk: if I have a leaking roof or a leaking pipe, I do not want a doctor or a lawyer—I want a plumber. Perhaps, as an economy, we need to pivot a bit more towards some of the trades.

“For others, and I am an example, the path on leaving school is a vocational qualification at first, such as an apprenticeship.”

The House of Commons Library research found that at any one time in the UK, approximately 572,000 people are undertaking an apprenticeship, sometimes for up to four years with the same employer, and from age 16. 

“The bill before us would exclude those apprentices from inclusion in automatic enrolment,” he said.