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Pensions auto-enrolment deadlines loom for SMEs

Businesses could be left scrambling for advisers as time runs out

15 October 2014

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The Pensions Regulator has estimated that as many as 20 per cent of small to medium sized employers (SMEs) are unaware of their automatic enrolment staging dates for pensions.

Businesses with 30-49 employees have until October 2015 to prepare themselves for automatic enrolment and those with less than 30 employees may have until June 2015 if they are selected for the early staging trial run, otherwise they will be given until November of the same year.

Over 28,000 businesses have been automatically enrolled in workplace pensions since the scheme began two years ago, but over a million more businesses will now be doing the same.

Malcom Streatfield, CEO of Lighthouse Group, an independent financial advice and wealth management group, commented: "Although a staging deadline of next year may seem like plenty of time to prepare, the fact is that pensions enrolment takes a great deal of work. Employers must ensure all personnel data is correct and that their payroll system is capable, as well as choosing their pensions provider.

"All of this is a huge drain on resources for smaller employers, so it is little wonder then that so many are seeking help from advisers. However, those who have yet to take action will find themselves at the back of a long queue and, even with external help, time is running out quickly.

The regulator also found that 89 per cent of small businesses and 64 per cent of micro employers have sought or are planning to seek consultation with external advisers.

Streatfield added: "While The Pensions Regulator has sent letters to all businesses with dates coming up in the next 18 months, many business owners will have filed them away and maybe forgotten about them. We urge all employers to check their pensions obligations immediately and begin preparations as soon possible."

Staging dates can be determined by entering PAYE references into an online tool provided by the regulator.

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