Life & Culture

The beauty of workplace pensions


Pensions are vitally important and, as Minister for Pensions, I'm on a mission to ensure everyone gets the chance to save for a good retirement.

Throughout my career, I have been trying to help make pensions as clear and straightforward as possible both for ordinary savers and the employers who support them in putting money away for later life.

Since 2012, the UK has been engaged in an unprecedented effort to encourage more people into pension-saving. Automatic enrolment has seen more than five million employees start saving into a workplace pension, which, in future, could give them and their family financial security.

By 2018, every employer in the UK will need to help their workers with pension-saving. It's the law.

Whether it be professional firms, local shops, small family businesses at the heart of their communities, or bigger players in the manufacturing industries and financial services, Jewish employers are continuing the tradition of hard work and business success for which our communities have so often been renowned.

These businesses have been making a major contribution to the UK's economic recovery. And playing, as they do, such an important part in the labour market, they also have an absolutely key role in helping to achieve our vision of a country in which having a workplace pension and saving for later life is the new norm.

Of course, I know this also means more for employers to do to help their staff. They will need to understand how automatic enrolment will affect their businesses and where to find out what their obligations are. The government aims to ensure all employers, including the small businesses and family firms that employ so many people in our community, know how to find the information or help they need.

Even those who employ just one person will have to think about pensions, whether they are a start-up company or someone employing a nanny or housekeeper.

Automatic enrolment rules specify that every worker over the age of 22 and earning more than £10,000 a year must be put into a pension scheme chosen by their employer. They can then choose to opt out but I am pleased that most people are staying in. Only 10 per cent of employees are choosing to opt out.

Already, more than 5.6 million employees working in approximately 68,000 businesses have been automatically enrolled.

This is fantastic progress, but there is much more to do. So far, only the larger firms have had to automatically enrol their staff. From January 2016, we begin working with the 1.8 million small employers still to set up a scheme.

We want to make the process as straightforward as possible for those starting automatic enrolment soon. To help employers prepare, the Pensions Regulator is writing to each and every UK employer between now and 2018 to tell them about their new pension duties, but this is just the start. Some small employers may not have heard of the workplace pension and some may not even consider themselves to be employers. However, they will all have to look into their pension responsibilities.

Building awareness is a big part of making the roll-out of the workplace pension a success. We recently launched a new campaign fronted by "Workie", an enormous, colourful character who reminds people not to ignore their pensions. The campaign is deliberately fun and eye-catching but behind it lies the serious message that everyone is entitled to a workplace pension and that saving for a pension should be the norm for all employees. You may even have spotted our ads in the JC recently.

Equally important is that all employers understand their legal responsibility to their staff and are motivated to get the information they need to comply with the law. You can find out more by visiting:

The Pensions Regulator has responsibility for the day-to-day running of automatic enrolment and is there to help. They have developed a simple interactive online guide with step-by-step instructions specifically for small employers, including those who only employ one or two staff. The guide explains what these employers need to do, by when, how long it should take, and what's coming next. You can check it out at

Finding a suitable pension provider can be daunting, so the Regulator offers information on what employers should look for in a scheme. It is really important that smaller employers understand the implications of the type of scheme they choose for their staff to ensure their lower paid workers do not lose out on the tax relief they are due.

A "Net Pay" scheme will not be suitable for those earning below about £11,000 a year, so make sure you ask about "Relief at Source" schemes which will ensure low earners are not charged 20 per cent extra for their pensions.

The Government's pension reforms aim to give people more security and independence to plan for their future. But this cannot be done without the active involvement of all UK employers. Many Jewish business owners have a proud tradition of providing for their employees in later life and I believe that automatic enrolment can be an important part of that.

Helping millions more people provide for their future and making saving for later life the norm will mean much more hard work, but it is a prize well worth winning.

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