Pension reforms: Sponsor’s comment: Get ready for the ‘big bang’

Engagement of employees is a key objective when preparing for the pension reforms, says Matt Waller, chief executive officer at Benefex

With October 2012 fast approaching, the biggest change to the pensions landscape for a generation is looming ever closer. Countless organisations are still scrambling to get ready for the new world of auto-enrolment to ensure it is implemented appropriately and that they remain compliant. Although it is compulsory, that does not mean they cannot make it an engaging and compelling proposition for employees.

For the Pensions Act 2008 to have been a success, it will need to raise people’s awareness, understanding and engagement in pensions and long-term savings. I understand that for most organisations, just implementing a compliant auto-enrolment solution in the timeframe is the number one focus. But, in my opinion, automatically enrolling employees alone will not achieve these goals or an ideal outcome. It is down to us as an industry to ensure we educate, involve and encourage employees to understand the merits of saving and what it means for each of their futures. That may sound idealistic, but we know auto-enrolment alone will not solve the retirement savings gap or underfunding in UK pensions. However, it is at least a first step.

Regardless of where the responsibility for designing and delivering auto-enrolment sits within organisations, reward, HR, payroll, pensions and finance will all play a key part in making the design, implementation and ongoing delivery a reality. From what we have seen in the market, it is clear that a lot of planning has been done but there is lots more still to do, especially for smaller employers. Assistance is out there, from design and costing strategies, through to complete end-to-end delivery of every aspect of auto-enrolment.

One aspect that cannot be guaranteed as part of the implementation of auto-enrolment is engagement of employees. With many quoted as saying that it is ‘another tax on employees’ or seeking to blame their employer for its implementation, clear communication and education will be key. For each and every scheme’s implementation, the perception of current or new employees being automatically enrolled will govern a large part of its success.

A lack of understanding is likely to be the biggest barrier to engaging employees with a scheme. An open, honest approach and being on the front foot with a structured communication and education programme will ensure that a workforce understands why its employer has implemented the new initiative and what it means for them.

Another aspect is the type of scheme employers choose. Whether they feel their current scheme will meet all the requirements in terms of structure, charges and default funds or simply that they have not reviewed it in a long time, it will be important to understand how to achieve the best results for their newly enrolled employees.

Whether employers choose to work with a partner or deliver everything in-house, one solution will not fit everyone. We would encourage organisations to engage early, create a clear plan and strategy, and then focus on partnering with providers to deliver a suitable solution for them and their employees.

Whatever approach employers adopt for auto-enrolment, we can deliver a solution to meet their needs. From consulting, design, technology, administration and helpdesk support, Enroller from Benefex can ensure they remain compliant with their obligations while maximising the value and return from any additional pensions spend.

Read more about the 2012 pension reforms