The background to the Government’s intention to reform workplace pension provision from 1 October 2012 is straightforward: the current size of the retired population is larger than ever before and is increasing as people live longer. State pension costs are rising and, in response, the Government seeks to encourage more people to save for retirement. It believes that one way of achieving this goal is by way of auto-enrolment, that is, to compel employers to enrol staff into a qualifying pension scheme of their own, or into the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), so that many more individuals make a financial contribution to their retirement savings.
NEST is a trust-based occupational defined contribution pension scheme run by the NEST Corporation, its trustee body. From 1 October 2012, UK employers will start becoming subject to new duties requiring them to auto-enrol all eligible jobholders in a qualifying workplace pension scheme. Designed specifically for low earners and others who are new to pension saving, NEST will be one of the pension schemes that employers will be able to use to meet these duties. Alternatively, employers will be able to use their existing pension arrangements (or put in place new arrangements), provided they meet qualifying criteria.
The implementation date of 1 October 2012 applies to the largest employers, with medium-sized and smaller employers being phased in gradually from that date, depending on the number of employees on their payroll. The start date for each employer is known as its “staging date”. While a staging date may be more than a year away, it is estimated that putting in place the pension arrangements for some employers could take many months, as identifying those workers who need to be auto-enrolled it is not always a straightforward matter.
Following an informal consultation exercise in April 2011, on 19 July 2011 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a consultation paper and four draft statutory instruments, which set out the final shape of legislation governing auto-enrolment and employer duties. The consultation period closed on 11 October 2011.