How employers can address workplace pension rule ‘minefield’ - October 2020

It would be unfair to describe the phased introduction of workplace pensions (WPP) as anything other than an overwhelming success.
From a standing start in 2012, by the end of 2019, more than 77% of the UK’s workforce had enrolled in a WPP with over one third (36%) registered as members of occupational defined contribution pension schemes. 
Yet the administration of many WPP schemes is less than perfect: frankly, they should be more accurate and efficient, systemic drawbacks that could compromise companies operating in an area which many describe as a ‘minefield’ – and with some justification.
Failure to adhere to even simple rules, such as late payment of the employers’ minimum contribution, or neglecting to complete a re-declaration of compliance each time a staff member is re-enrolled into a WPP, can result in a fine.  
There’s more. WPP deductions from staff pay must be paid into the pension scheme by a specific date; records must be retained (some for six years, others for four) to show how employers have adhered to their legal obligations, while the rules on re-enrolment and re-declaration, plus those relating to when staff can be enrolled must be followed to the letter. 
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already complicated situation. In millions of instances, salaries have been supplemented by furlough payments, income likely to have a direct impact upon an employees’ qualifying earnings – and employers’ contributions. 
In addition, staff may leave a WPP whenever they want and as the prospect of unemployment looms, many are; it is their employer who is legally required to remove them from the scheme within a month of receiving their request. 
Given the surfeit of WPP-related rules with which employers must contend, on top of which is the more pressing matter of ensuring their businesses survive the pandemic, this would be an ideal moment to transfer WPP administration to the professionals. 
The Options Workplace Pension can accommodate companies of all sizes, irrespective of the number of people they employ. Options’ UK-registered WPP, classified as a ‘master trust occupational defined contribution scheme’, is flexible, accurate, efficient, fully automated and meets the qualifying workplace pension requirements of auto-enrolment. 
For employers, the pandemic’s impact appears likely to make the WPP minefield even more hazardous. Recognising this, Options can move rapidly to assume the administrative helm and ensure employers avoid fines, enabling them to get on with running their business, a large enough challenge on its own. 
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