Smaller UK firms admit confusion over pensions

Nearly half of the UK’s small to medium enterprises (SMEs) do not understand their responsibilities for enrolling staff in a workplace pension scheme, reports the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The FSB, which polled more than 1,000 small business owners during November and December, found that 45% of SMES were unclear on the rules while 25% were doubtful whether their business could cope with the extra costs of funding employees’ pensions.

The UK government launched auto enrolment duties requiring firms to enrol employees in a workplace pension scheme in 2012, beginning with the largest businesses. To date, 5.4m workers have been enrolled.

From last November firms with 30 staff or less have started enrolling their workers, including firms with no more than one staff member, although the majority will reach their staging date between now and February 2018.

The survey found that one in four respondents did not know when their own firm’s staging date was, although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launch an advertising campaign last October to alert firms to their auto enrolment duties. Three in four business owners complained that the government’s new rules put “too much pressure” on SMEs.

The FSB also found that firms aware of the requirement to introduce auto-enrolment scheme typically underestimated the cost of doing so. On average they estimated the overall cost to be £903, although firms that have already go ahead with workplace pensions report the average cost to be £1,436.

“Our message for small employers is auto-enrolment is coming and will affect your business – and the sooner you get to grips with what you need to do the better off you will be,” said John Allan, the FSB’s national chairman.

“Most of the businesses which have already set up a workplace pension told us they found the process fairly straightforward, but we know many remain concerned about their ability to cope. These businesses should feel reassured that there is plenty of information and support available to help them through the process.

“The government must continue to monitor the roll-out of auto-enrolment closely and take steps to lessen the burden on smaller businesses where possible.”


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