Make internal communication top of your auto enrolment agenda

According to a survey carried out by Preston-based financial advisory firm, Taylor Patterson, more than 57 per cent of businesses are still failing to communicate the effects of auto enrolment to their employees.

Auto enrolment can take 12 to 18 months to implement and therefore it is important business owners take time to educate their staff about what it means to be part of a workplace pension.

Paul Jackson, employee benefits manager at Taylor Patterson comments: “In some cases business owners are overwhelmed by the auto enrolment process and so they’re neglecting to communicate the changes to staff in the best possible way.

“Internal communications is vital if all staff are to get on board,” adds Paul. “We are urging businesses to make sure they have a communications plan in place, especially with companies who already have a pension scheme in place because it may not be accepted under auto enrolment.

“Furthermore, employees may assume they’re exempt from auto enrolment if staff are already members of a company pension scheme. Expert advice is priceless which has been apparent when working with businesses through this phase of auto enrolment.”

One such company is Lostock-based bakery chain, Greenhalgh’s which employs a workforce of more than 900 across its head office operations and its 62 retail outlets. Despite having two company pension schemes in place before the Government introduced auto enrolment, financial director, Ray Lyons, was still keen to consult Taylor Patterson for the company’s advice on how to ensure Greenhalgh’s implemented effective workplace pensions across its business.

Ray commented: “The team at Taylor Patterson tailored the information supplied by the pension scheme provider to create a bespoke information pack for our staff and they are working with us on an ongoing communications strategy regarding auto enrolment.

“Taylor Patterson has also provided a helpline so that our employees can contact them directly for expert advice on the scheme and their options. Those considering opt out have made use of that facility to fully understand their choices and how it would affect them.”

For most, the impact auto enrolment will have on their pay packet is the biggest concern. Both employee and employer will pay into the company’s chosen pension scheme and most will get a contribution from the Government in the form of tax relief. This means that money that would have gone to the Government in tax, will instead go towards the employee’s pension.

Paul concluded: “Companies have a commitment to their employees to make them feel relaxed about the auto enrolment process. By law, employers must at least write to their staff members to tell them how auto enrolment affects them and what their rights are.

“Furthermore, it is important employees are aware of their retirement options, investment choices, contributions and any costs to them. Business owners can seek assistance through The Pensions Regulator or through professional advisers on internal communication best practice.”

Certain communications have to be provided by the employer in a prescriptive manner and by certain deadlines. Other communications from the employer can be more personalised. Guidance can be found via The Pensions Regulator which has published various documents with information on how to communicate to staff. Tips include; sharing articles about auto enrolment, but keep them short and to the point; consider sending specific texts and emails to employees to keep them up to date and put up posters around the work place.