How can data accuracy affect a workplace pension?

By Mattioli Woods

28 Feb 2013

Work place pensions have gained a lot of press lately, and as the regulators send out the next wave of staging dates to businesses across the UK, specialist Colin Wildman from Preston based financial advisory group, Taylor Patterson talks about what systems and processes will employers need to put in place to meet the pension scheme automatic enrolment requirements.

One of the most important aspects of meeting the government’s pension scheme automatic enrolment regulations is data management. We are working with local businesses on improving their data systems ready to implement auto enrolment schemes. Employers will need to be assured that their payroll or pension scheme provider can provide a robust system. Data must be assessed both on an initial and on-going basis within each employee pay reference period.

Some of the leading pension scheme providers have developed administration hubs that will help employers assess employee data, make contributions, keep records, communicate with employees and meet the on-going requirements. Payroll providers have also started to add additional data fields to their systems to help employers meet their auto-enrolment duties.

From the software system used to hold the data and calculate the pension payments through to the process of updating the data when required, one thing is for certain, many businesses are facing data struggles over the coming months.

Another issue we regularly come across is the data policies, or lack of them in place within organisations. Many businesses are struggling with what data to manage and most importantly how.

Accurate and up to date data is fundamental if the employer is to: Correctly assess the different categories of worker; Communicate with employees; Auto enrol employees; Make contributions; Meet the Regulator’s record keeping requirements. Employers need to be confident that they hold the data required to meet the employer duties and that it is current, accurate and sufficient. Employers may require new data fields e.g. a workers State Pension age and ‘qualifying earnings’ as defined by the regulations. Taylor Patterson recommends that employers consider completing an employee data audit well in advance of their auto enrolment staging date. Any data held must be lawful, adequate, relevant and no more than sufficient in line with Data Protection legislation.

It is also worth noting that Employers must keep specific records about pensions and payments. Most of these records must be kept for a minimum of six years. Employers can use electronic or paper filing systems to keep or store any records as long as they are legible and can be produced if the regulator or any other Trustee asks to see them.

It is important that employers plan ahead and do not underestimate the complexities of auto-enrolment. This is a lesson which has already been learnt by the large employers who have passed their staging dates and have learnt through their mistakes. For further guidance and assistance with work place pensions and how auto enrolment may affect you please contact Paul Jackson or Colin Wildman on 01772 555073

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