No time to waste: minimum pension contributions must rise
A significant increase in the minimum contributions to workplace pensions is required according to a new report by the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
With the tenth anniversary of the introduction of automatic enrolment (AE) into workplace pensions coming up in October, ABI has published its thoughts on the past ten years and what needs to happen over the next decade.
The ABI notes that “AE has turned the tide on decades of falling participation in pensions saving” with over £28 billion more being saved in workplace pensions in 2020 compared to 2012. But, it sees several challenges ahead that could affect you as an employer, your employees, or self-employed staff:
- Participation: Anyone earning less than £10,000 a year misses out on AE, even if they have multiple jobs and total earnings above that figure. Similarly, only workers aged at least 22 are automatically enrolled. The ABI would like to lower the minimum age to 18, which could mean one million people joining workplace pensions, according to research from the Onward think tank.
- Earnings basis: Currently, the first £6,240 of earnings are excluded when calculating employer and employee contributions (with an earnings cap at £50,270). The floor hits lowest earners the hardest, effectively halving the notional contribution rates from someone earning £12,500 a year. The ABI wants every pound of earnings to count towards contributions.
- Contribution rates: The AE contribution rates have been 3% for employers and 5% (before tax relief) for employees since 2018. The ABI, along with nearly all pension professionals, believe these should increase. The ABI’s suggested rates are 6% for employers and 6% for employees, set to be phased in through to 2031.
- Self-employed: The self-employed are outside AE and the result has been poor pension provision. The ABI bravely says, “One idea proposed to fund pension saving is to increase Class 4 NICs to 12% for all self-employed people but divert 3% of this to a pension pot if individuals also contribute to into a pension.”
The clear message from ABI here is that contributions must rise across the board. That makes sound financial planning sense but right now, with the cost-of-living crisis, the political appetite for taking up this challenge looks limited. However, there are steps you can take now to help your employees understand the importance of their pension. For example, encouraging employees to learn about and understand their pensions, making sure any communication you send out is clear and concise and introducing financial education throughout the organisation.
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