Pensionssszzzzzzz…. Not the most exciting topic, but certainly one of the most current, given the panic over whether we will all be able to afford to retire in the future. (Assuming of course that we have jobs to retire from!) To address the problem, new pension laws are coming into place this year that place new duties on employers, to help their staff save for retirement. The main change is that instead of pensions being an opt-in arrangement, employers need to automatically enrol people into a pension scheme, and people can choose to opt out afterwards. So here are some FAQs (and answers) about what’s coming up for employers!

What do employers have to do?

You have to provide a qualifying pension scheme, registered with the Pensions Regulator, and enrol people in it. Keep people informed – tell them they are enrolled but that they can opt out (although you can’t encourage them to do so!) Finally, you have to pay employer contributions of at least 3% of their earnings.

Who has to be automatically enrolled?

Not everyone – just eligible jobholders (so not just employees – it also covers apprentices, some contract workers etc.) They must be over 22, working in the UK and earning more than the minimum earnings threshold.

When will this happen?

The date the changes take effect is called the ‘staging date, and it will depend on the number of people in the organisation. It will be earlier for larger companies, starting from October 2012 and carrying on until 2016. But don’t worry – the Pensions Regulator will let you know at least 6 months beforehand so it won’t sneak up on you! For a sneak preview though, go to www.tpr.gov.uk/staging

We already provide a pension scheme – will that do?

Depends on the scheme – most occupational and group personal pensions will qualify, but minimum contributions must be made. You can amend your scheme if it doesn’t qualify at the moment – again, check online at www.tpr.gov.uk/qualifyingscheme

I hate pension stuff, it is beyond dull

I agree, but the law’s the law and you can’t not bother just because it is tedious and the pension trustees meetings never have decent biscuits. So keep an eye on the pensions Regulator website for updates and advice, and find a suitable pensions provider if you need one, who can hold your hand through it all. Finally, make sure you have competent, trained trustees for your scheme, who can take some of the responsibility for ensuring you comply with the legislation. And give them decent biscuits.

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