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Pensions Regulator issues employer’s guide to AE

15 April 2020: the Pensions Regulator (TPR) has issued new guidance to help employers meet their automatic enrolment duties amidst the unfolding chaos of the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance forms part of the regulator’s wider package of measures to safeguard pensions through the challenges unleashed by COVID-19.

The pensions watchdog says it will support employers and take a proportionate approach to any enforcement decisions given the current pressures. 

Joe Turner, TPR’s head of Automatic Enrolment, said: "These are unprecedented times and we are acutely aware of the pressure employers are now under. While employers continue to have responsibilities, we are weaving in as much flexibility as possible to help employers and protect savers. 

"We are continually reviewing and updating our guidance to respond to the challenges as they unfold,” continued Turner. “Further guidance will be published shortly outlining in more detail what employers can expect from us in the weeks and months ahead."

To underscore that commitment, the regulator has written to providers asking them to be as flexible as possible when agreeing contribution payment dates and advises any employers concerned about fulfilling their contributions, to speak to their pension provider. 

To help companies, the period in which schemes must report payment failures has been extended from 90 days to 150 days in a bid to give trustees and providers more time to work with employers to bring payments up to date.

It specifically advises new employers “to continue to assess your staff and put them into a pension if they are eligible.”, but highlights the use of a process called postponement which defers the duty to assess new or newly eligible staff for up to three months.

For smaller businesses approaching or carrying out their first re-enrolment of staff, the regulator says it will continue to update them with information and support on the matter with a recommendation that employers assess their staff for re-enrolment on the third anniversary of their staging date or duties date.

Businesses are encouraged to visit the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme site to find out how to claim back minimum Automatic Enrolment employer contributions for furloughed staff.

The regulator has also issued new employer guidance with tips on what employers need to know about payroll, re-enrolment responsibilities and flexibilities as well as what to do if staff ask to opt out or reduce their contributions.