New pension scheme legal duties come into force

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New laws came into effect on 1 July which prohibit employers from inducing or offering incentives to their staff or prospective employees to abandon retirement saving.

Employers who are found to be pressurising staff to opt out of pension saving could be hit with a large fine.

The changes mark the start of workplace pensions reform and new duties which will eventually see all UK employers automatically putting certain staff into a pension scheme and making contributions.

Starting from October 2012 employers will begin to automatically enrol eligible workers into a qualifying pension scheme, and contribute to that pension. Between October 2012 and April 2017 employers will be required in stages to automatically enrol all their eligible jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme and make contributions to the scheme (this contribution will be increased in phases).

The new rules apply to both existing workers and potential new recruits – for example making a job offer or higher salary conditional on not joining the employer’s automatic enrolment scheme.

Workers can report concerns that the rules are being broken, while employers are being offered a range of online tools. These include supporting template posters, content for employee bulletins and other tips, including a pensions language guide and myth-buster in the DWP employer communications materials.

Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, said:

“Workplace pensions reform will mean that millions of people will be better able to afford the plans they have for retirement – so it’s crucial that they know how the changes affect them.

“Giving workers information about automatic enrolment will be the duty of employers, and the templates launched today will make it as simple as possible for them to keep their employees up-to-speed on their pension entitlements.”

Charles Counsell, the Executive Director for Employer Compliance at The Pensions Regulator, added:

“We’re prioritising educational tools and guides to prepare employers for their new duties.

“But employers should be under no illusion that we will take action against any tactics to tempt or pressurise staff to opt out of pension saving, whether it’s during the recruitment process or after. This could include a substantial fine.”

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