UK - More than four of five UK companies have yet to check if their pension schemes qualify for auto-enrolment, according to figures released by Mercer.

Additionally, more than 60% of small companies questioned by the Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) believe a three-month threshold should be in place before workers are auto-enrolled.

Mercer added that while around 68% of respondents had begun planning to implement the changes, around the same percentage of companies had put their planning on hold until the ongoing government review of the regulations and the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) had been completed.

Claire Ross, who heads the consultancy's service implementation department, stressed that early preparation for auto-enrolment was important to ensure all issues were clarified ahead of time.

"An important initial step in preparing for auto-enrolment is to conduct a review of whether the company scheme qualifies under the new regime," she said.

"If it doesn't, costs and timescales will need to be agreed so the scheme can be adjusted in time for the auto-enrolment deadlines."

Mercer's research found that 86% of pension funds had yet to check whether they would comply with the new regulations or if schemes needed to implement changes.

Asked which changes they would like to see come from the government's review of auto-enrolment, close to three out of five cited the exclusion of contract workers from the new system, while more than a third believed the qualifying earnings threshold should be increased from its current rate of £5,035 before tax.

Additionally, almost 40% of those questioned said that they did not plan to use NEST at all, while only 6% said they would use it as the company's main pension scheme, with many of those respondents coming from smaller companies.

Further research conducted by the ACA on smaller companies' attitude toward NEST showed that almost half do not agree with the new scheme, while 46% also opposed auto-enrolment as a whole.

Stuart Southall, chairman of the ACA, said the success of auto-enrolment depended entirely on how well the economy recovered over the coming years.

"There is also a consensus to exclude employees with under three months' service and for pension contributions not to be based on the earnings basis laid out in current rules," he said.

The ACA's research also showed that 60% of companies planned to enrol new members into their existing schemes, with one-fifth saying they would close their existing pension fund and use NEST for all employees in future.