Boots prepares for pensions auto-re-enrolment 

There are over 1,400 Boots stores across the UK, in a range of locations from high streets and out of town shopping centres, to stations, airports and health centres. There are currently 55 edge of town stores. Credit:NewsCast +44 (0) 20 7608 1000

Boots, a member of Walgreens Boots Alliance, is facing its first cyclical re-enrolment in January 2016 and has identified around 2,000 staff that must be assessed and potentially automatically re-enrolled.

The Alliance Healthcare and Boots Retirement Savings Plan (AHBRSP), a group personal pension scheme, was established in 2010 with Legal and General, and a section for auto-enrolment, called the AE Scheme, was introduced in 2012. Just over 22,000 eligible jobholders were auto-enrolled in February 2013, and there are currently about 25,000 members in each of the main AHBRSP and the AE Scheme.

Julie Richards, group director of pensions at Walgreens Boots Alliance, says: “It is the first of our UK employers to have to deal with re-enrolment and we are at an advanced stage and on schedule in our preparation. We started preparing for this as early as May. A notification to impacted Boots colleagues is being sent out at the end of October with a manager briefing being sent out beforehand and the standard auto re-enrolment letter will be sent in January.

“The key priority is to look at the definition of employees and make sure, working with payroll, that they have been clearly identified, and that the appropriate processes are in place. This project also provided a good opportunity to work closely with payroll to focus on improving the quality of our information management in this area.”

Richards’ tip is to prepare early, and to make sure the business knows auto-re-enrolment is coming, particularly as it might contribute to a spike in workload for line managers. Store managers need to be made aware that this is coming and they can help in making sure that employee payroll details and addresses are up to date.

The pensions team also put together a briefing pack, which includes notes for HR business partners, line managers, and employees, and a copy of the letter telling the eligible employees in advance what is happening. This is supported by a pensions website where information about retirement savings and auto-enrolment can be found.

“Doing this for Boots is also helpful preparation for our other UK businesses that will have to deal with re-enrolment later in 2016 and in early 2017,” adds Richards. 

Walgreens Boots Alliance has eight employing entities in the UK. Five had a staging date of November 2012, with the others spread through the following 18 months.

One area of the ongoing auto-enrolment processes that needs careful monitoring is the spike in temporary staff at peak periods such as Christmas.  Although Boots uses a three-month postponement period, it is possible for some employees to tip over into four months’ employment, which would mean they have to be enrolled, even if they then subsequently leave within a month or so.