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UK pensions minister unveils revised auto-enrolment timetable

UK - The UK pensions minister has pledged that there will be no more delays to auto-enrolment after announcing details of a revised timetable for employers.

Steve Webb, minister of state for pensions, told a parliamentary committee today: “This is it. This is the plan, this is the programme - this is what will happen.”

Webb was responding to a question on whether the ministry would keep delaying auto-enrolment if the economy did not pick up.

Under the revised timetable published in a ministerial statement today, the auto-enrolment date for large employers was unchanged, but smaller employers were given a later staging date than was the case previously.

The statement provide details to the announcement made in November that small businesses would be given extra time to put the pensions system in place.

Webb said: “I can now confirm that, under the revised timeline, all employers with an existing staging date of, on or before 1 February 2014 are unaffected.

“This means no large employer will have to make any changes to their plans - which are in many cases already advanced.”

Medium-sized employers will be re-allocated dates between 1 April 2014 and 1 April 2015, meaning dates will be as many as nine months later for some.

Auto-enrolment dates for small employers will be between 1 June 2015 and 1 April 2017.

New employers setting up business between 1 April this year and 30 September 2017 will have automatic enrolment dates from 1 May 2017 and 1 February 2018.

Employers setting up after that will have to comply straightaway if they pay earnings attracting PAYE deductions.

The increase in the minimum rate of employer pension contribution from 1% to 2% of banded earnings will now happen on 1 October 2017 - a year later than scheduled - with the increase to 3% taking place on 1 October 2018.

A consultation document on the details of these changes is to be published shortly, Webb said.

Questioned at the Work and Pensions Committee after the statement, Webb said an estimate that £5bn (€6bn) would be lost in pension contributions by the delay in firms implementing the system was an “overstatement”.

“Clearly, if you put everybody back by 1% - from 1% to 2%, and 2% to 3%, by a year, you are talking several billion, but it is significantly less that £5bn,” he said.

Webb said he saw benefits in small companies automatically enrolling staff later than larger firms, in that there would be time to iron out problems in the system before they got involved.

“Obviously, by that time, we hope the economy will be in much stronger shape for the small firms as well, he said.

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