Charles Counsell: How will the auto-enrolment ‘capacity crunch’ affect medium to large employers?

As the number of employers searching for a pension scheme for employees rises, discussion on how the pensions industry is responding is becoming increasingly animated.

I have seen it reported that pension providers have some concerns about their ability to meet demand and service existing clients. Punch the term ‘capacity crunch’ used in connection to ‘pensions’ into an online search engine and you’ll probably find, as I did, 11,000 suggested links.


But this heavy traffic hitting the auto-enrolment highway is no surprise. The pensions industry has been planning for it, new roads have been built to carry the traffic, and the signposts indicate that new products will be available ahead.

These look set to provide a different type of fully automated self-service model to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of low-complexity small and micro employers.

What impact, then, on large employers that have already staged? To date, we have seen no indication of any dip in service to pension providers’ existing clients.

Many of these will have automatically enrolled almost two years ago and will need to revisit the process around three years after their original staging date.

With so many new employers developing their workplace pensions offering, it would be sensible to assume that all providers may need a bit more notice ahead of any discussions about updates or changes to existing provision.

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The roads are getting busier, but if employers allow time for their journey and plan the route in advance, they should avoid getting caught up in the traffic.

Charles Counsell is executive director for auto-enrolment at The Pensions Regulator