The roll out of automatic enrolment has been accompanied by a succession of doom-laden prophecies that haven’t come true.
In 2012, the road ahead for automatic enrolment (AE) was one peppered with bulges, capacity crunches and even a tsunami of employers set to overwhelm us. Whenever anyone referred to a tsunami, I always corrected them.
I have never known a tsunami ever to lead to anything but disaster. We were not setting up the AE programme to be a disaster, but to be a success. I preferred to liken the volume of employers that were coming to the foothills and peaks of a mountain range. Perfectly climbable with great care and excellent preparation.
And so it has turned out so far. Today more than seven million workers have been put into a pension and in excess of 340,000 employers have complied with their duties.
The fortune tellers have been wrong, but I agree with one commentator who stated over the new year that as we entered 2017 the job is far from done. Success does not build complacency and I know that new and even greater challenges lie ahead.
Over the coming year, we will be helping to steer more than 700,000 small and micro employers through their workplace pension duties. My team and I remain committed to doing all we can to maintain the high levels of compliance we have seen so far and there’s plenty of information and help available to ensure employers can meet their duties.
But we are clear too that if an employer does not comply with the law then they will face enforcement action. This is a key part in changing behaviour and making compliance the norm. The expectation of the majority who comply is to ‘see’ that those who don’t will face some punishment.
Our latest figures show the small minority of employers who fail to do the right thing by their staff are facing investigations and penalties. A tiny number have already needlessly risked their credit rating after failing to pay fines.
The news of fines may grab the headlines, but the real story today is the thousands of employers who have navigated their AE journey and many more preparing to do so in the coming months. No one at The Pensions Regulator will be taking their eye off the ball when it comes to ensuring that the good news story continues.
By Charles Counsell
Automatic Enrolment Executive Director