UK – A "significant" loophole that would have allowed employers to postpone auto-enrolment until 2017 has been closed by the Department for Work & Pensions.

Announcing the change, brought to the department's attention last month by consultancy LCP, pensions minister Steve Webb said it was "vital that forms comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the law".

Wording of the Pensions Act 2008 was meant to allow employers to postpone enrolling staff until 2017 if the hybrid scheme's regime made the phasing-in of contributions impossible.

The department said in a statement: "An amendment to the Pensions Act 2008 will tighten the rules, ensuring that only employers offering defined benefits to a jobholder – whether in a defined benefit or hybrid scheme – will be able to defer automatic enrolment until 2017."

It added that all eligible employees who did not have access to a DB fund should be enrolled from the company's staging date, without delay.

Webb said the change sent a "clear message" that all workers should be allowed to begin saving into their pension as soon as possible.  

"With more and more of us living longer, starting early to build a decent pension pot is more important than ever," he said.  

In other news, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said local councillors will no longer be able to contribute to their respective Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS).

According to Brandon Lewis, under-secretary of state for local government, the government took a "fundamentally different" view of a councillor's entitlements over the previous government, who had introduced the measure in 2001.

"Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service – they are not and should not be employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll," Lewis said, noting that they were not full-time politicians and should not be encouraged to pursue such a career.

While describing the previous pension entitlements as a "corrosive influence", the MP also argued that councillors needed to assist central government in reducing the deficit.

He noted that whole accrued benefits would be protected and further accrual would not be possible from 2014 onwards, reducing the payroll expenditure by £7m (€8.6m) in England.

Lewis added that consultations on the changes would come as part of the "wider reform" of the LGPS, presumably the consultations due to clarify the shape of the future funded local government pillar as changes are made in line with unfunded public pensions.