Auto-enrolment has certainly increased the workload for many UK HR teams in the last 12 months. Across the larger companies that have signed their employees onto a workplace pension scheme, just 9-10% of individuals have chosen to opt out. Clearly a lot of people have been won round by their organisation and have enrolled as a result. However, it has been debated whether the employer’s responsibility should stop there. Should the onus, in fact, be on companies to educate their staff about automatic enrolment or does the responsibility lie with the employee themselves?

The government has already stressed the importance of advising people on the benefits of auto enrolment by offering free and impartial advice at the point of retirement.  However, it’s been suggested that this comes too late. By this point, employees will have made their choices a long time ago and the state of their pension fund will be hard to change. If it does fall to the employer, they would have to also remember to engage with those who have both opted in and opted out. For the former, care should be taken to explain that auto enrolment on its own will not be sufficient enough to support a comfortable retirement. For the latter, the importance of building a robust pension plan could be stressed to the individual.

Whoever they’re speaking to, if businesses are to engage with employees on this controversial topic, they’ll also need to go about it in the right way. It’s crucial that employers don’t use industry jargon as this will just put people off educating themselves on the subject. It’s also important to remember to give professionals time to consider their options. A pension will turn out to be one of the most important investments of a person’s life, so they shouldn’t be rushed into making a decision.

Some commentators have suggested the responsibility to educate about pensions falls at the feet of the individual and it’s up to them to plan for the future. After all, the average time spent in a job in 2012 was 4.4 years and this figure will continue to fall. Will organisations really want to invest in educating their workforces about the benefits of pension planning when they’ll quickly move on to another business? Either way, it’s crucial that professionals understand the benefits and downsides of auto enrolment and make their own decisions accordingly.

There will continue to be debate on whose responsibility it is to educate on auto-enrolment, however as the department in charge of managing people, HR professionals should ensure they’re knowledgeable on the legislation. They’re likely to be the individuals questioned by both employees and senior business figures so it’s crucial they know have their information right.

Whose responsibility do you think it should be?

Let us know by commenting below.

Jade Gange is a consultant at Capita Specialist Recruitment