Auto enrolment: Map out your journey in advance

Most of the UK’s employers are yet to reach their auto enrolment staging date but a handful of the largest companies have been through the process and we can all learn from their experiences.

Your Enrolment Solution YESBy Matthew Parkinson, director, Your Enrolment Solution.

It’s fair to say that there have been a number of common issues, including getting payroll systems to interact with auto enrolment software, correct assessment of the workforce and issues with data within the business, let alone across external pension or payroll providers.

So what are the key areas businesses need to address?

Planning

Probably the most obvious thing is to firstly determine who will be involved in the project. A successful team will require many different parts of the business to be involved from the outset including, HR, payroll, finance, and pension and payroll providers and advisers.

Prepare as soon as possible. Those that have left it late have been caught out and not obtained the scheme they wanted.

Review

Before employers can understand what changes need to be made they will first need to review their existing arrangements. Many employers are likely to already have a pension scheme. However, it may not be auto enrolment ready. If employers are looking to self-certify their existing scheme they will need to make sure they have a good understanding of the certification guidelines and not misinterpreted the certification options.

Conduct an initial review of your workforce to get a better understanding of which category the bulk of them fall into and how this will affect their preparation.

Scheme

Every business will have different needs from their pension scheme. Employers will need to decide what contribution structure they want and whether they want a one-size-fits-all scheme, or a two-tier scheme. It’s important employers know what they want their scheme to look like before they source it.

Conduct a full market review; however this can be a timely process. Professional consultancy services can help, often using their strong relationships and market expertise to make sure employers get the best scheme for them.

Start to look as soon as possible. Scottish Life, among others, have already stated they will not accept schemes with less than six months to their staging date. Once a business has found the scheme they want, they must get their terms agreed in writing. Otherwise they leave themselves open to last-minute changes, such as whole auto enrolment populations not being accepted into existing schemes.

Process

Creating a process map is vital; the Centre for Economic Business Research recently highlighted the fact SMEs will have to complete 33 administrative tasks in the run up to their staging date, estimating such preparatory work could take a business up to 103 days. This exercise can also be used to help understand how the new actions integrate with the existing processes and identify any gaps.

People

All employee data will need to be gathered and validated so they can be assessed and placed into one of the three employee categories.

People will also often react badly to change, especially financial change, and this is why keeping them informed is key. The pensions regulator provides a guideline for statutory communication, however we believe these need to be expanded. Many companies have found that to just send the standard letters isn’t enough.

Full communication campaigns including posters, e-mails, group presentations and even social media campaigns will ensure the message gets across clearly. Auto enrolment is for your employees’ benefit, so it’s important they understand how and why their employer is helping them.

Reporting

New legislation means new reporting requirements and it’s the job of the pensions regulator to ensure compliance with the new rules. Failure to comply will result in penalties. Keeping a full audit trail for the whole scheme is a vital way of ensuring you have the reports the regulator may request.