Corporate adviser warns about ‘deluded consequences’ of auto-enrolment

The current auto-enrolment model may not encourage employees to make sufficient pension savings for their retirement, according to Thomosons Online Benefits’ chief executive officer (CEO).

Michael Whitfield (pictured) said that auto-enrolment, the government-enforced reforms aimed at ensuring more people save into a workplace pension scheme, will not give people the savings they need to fund their retirement.

He said: “We have to look at what’s happened in Australia with compulsion, where minimum contribution levels into a private pension are going to reach 12% by 2019.

“I have some serious concerns that those people who are auto-enrolled will delude themselves that the contributions they are paying will be enough to give them a decent pension in retirement, and it won’t be.

“The problem is people are living longer, annuities are dropping, but 8% of annual earnings for middle-band [earners], which is the average people are looking at as far as auto-enrolled contributions are concerned, is just nowhere near enough to give people a decent pension in retirement.”

Current planned minimum contribution levels in the UK are much lower than under the Australian system. For example, in October 2017, employers will automatically deduct a minimum of 3% of an employee’s earnings and will have to pay 2% themselves, before this increases in October 2018 to 5% and 3%, respectively.

Whitfield added that the government’s move to put pressure on employers to take on employees’ pension responsibilities will create some misguided satisfaction among employees, who may think their pension will provide for them in retirement.

He said: “The chickens will come home to roost in 15 to 20 years’ time, and if not longer, when people suddenly discover that they don’t have enough money in their pension to retire and they don’t have a state pension to fall back on.

“I worry that a whole generation of people, who are the ones that are the most affected by the inevitable withdrawal of the state pension, won’t have a decent amount of savings to fall back on in retirement.”