Auto-enrolment opt-out rates as expected

More than half (56%) of employers that have auto-enrolled staff into a workplace pension scheme and have calculated their opt-out rate have found that less than 10% of their staff opted out, according to the Employee Benefits/Capita Pensions Research 2013, published this month.

David Tildesley, director of client partnerships at Capita Employee Benefits, said:  “When the project first started for auto-enrolment, all sorts of financial modelling assumptions were made by employers. They started off with assumptions of opt-outs of around 50% of the workforce, but I don’t think any of them ended up much above an opt-out level of 30%.”

Coca-Cola Enterprises has seen 12% of its eligible workforce, who were auto-enrolled into its group personal pension plan in April 2013, opt out.

Meanwhile, the Heart of England Co-operative Society has seen opt-out rates of 8% since launching a master trust, ahead of its auto-enrolment staging date in September 2013.

Utilities firm E.On, which raised its pensions take-up to 92% following its April 2013 auto-enrolment staging date, conducted a survey among the 856 employees who opted out. It found that 45% of these cited the ability to afford contributions as their top reason for opting out. A similar percentage (44%) said they would join the pension scheme in the future, while 42% said pensions were not for them and they never expect to join.

Rudi Smith, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said opt-out rates were as expected so far. “Some people who are now being auto-enrolled are people who have previously chosen not to join a pension scheme or have chosen to opt out in the past,” he said.

“To some extent, we can see that is true. But, from that perspective, the fact there has been so much coverage about auto-enrolment has had quite an effect on the attitude of many people to being enrolled in a pension scheme.

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“Public awareness has changed, the employee attitude has changed, but also the government’s assumptions at the time that auto-enrolment was introduced, which was that apathy would lead a number of people to not opt out, has gone through.”

Tildesley added: “We think there are some positive aspects to these low opt-out rates. It is definitely worth noting that this is partly to do with a positive attitude from employees towards pensions, as long as they have the word ‘workplace’ in front of it.”

Opt out levels