Research from the Pensions Regulator has revealed that almost two-thirds of businesses do not know when their new workplace pension obligations start. The Pensions Regulator has, on the back of this research, reiterated that it strongly advises hundreds of thousands of small businesses to check their Auto Enrolment staging dates.

The Pensions Regulator conducts and publishes research twice a year to track the awareness of employers and intermediaries with regards to upcoming changes to pension regulations. Awareness of those due to stage between August and November 2015 were high – 90% were starting to make preparations for the changes – but for those whose staging dates fell in 2016, less than three in ten knew when their obligations were set to begin.

Advice from the Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator has given official advice stating that employers should ideally start preparing for their new Auto Enrolment responsibilities one year in advance of their staging date. However, their research has shown that this is not the case.

For employers who fail to comply with the new Auto Enrolment regulations, fixed penalty notices can be given by the Pensions Regulator. If statutory notices are not complied with then further escalatory penalties can be applied for every day that this is the case.

More information on penalties in relation to failure to comply with Auto Enrolment can be found here.

How do I find out my Staging Date?

Your staging date is the date by which you must be in compliance with the new laws and regulations. By now, you should have received letters from the Pensions Regulator detailing this date. However, if you still aren’t sure of when your new obligations are set to start, then you can find out via the Pensions Regulator’s website. You’ll need your PAYE reference, although if you don’t have it to hand you can use the website to send yourself an email reminder.

If you do not pay your staff through a PAYE scheme then your staging date is fixed for 1st April 2017.

The Pensions Regulator recommends that you are aware of your staging date at least 12 months prior to it coming into effect, so that you have time to prepare for your new duties. There are various duties that you will have to fulfil in order to comply with the regulations, so this time is vital for ensuring that you are prepared for these changes.

Comments from the Pensions Regulator

Charles Counsell, Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment at the Pensions Regulator, commented on the research findings. “The challenge of ensuring 1.8million employers meet their duties by April 2018 is significant,” he said, “and the research shows many employers are still not preparing early enough.”

He went on to say that “we continue to develop new tools on our website to simplify the process and are using a diverse range of communications to reach out to employers. However,” he warned, “my message remains clear: start getting your plans in place or you risk a financial penalty.”