Email most common form of comms as employers fail to review pension scheme offerings

Email is still the most common form of communication used by workplace pension schemes when engaging with members, with 71 per cent of employers using this method , according to a survey from Aon.

The provider’s 2021 UK Benefits & Trends report highlighted this dependency on email as “disappointing” considering the range of alternative engagement methods, many of which have seen a drop in the past year.

In particular, communication with members via an online self-service portal fell from 66 per cent in 2020 to 56 per cent in 2021, whilst face-to-face presentations decreased from 53 per cent in 2020 to 31 per cent in 2021.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the use of video and recorded presentations increased from 13 per cent to 21 per cent in 2021, with access to pension and retirement planning seminars, which were offered by 40 and 34 per cent of employers respectively, remaining the most popular financial education service.

Despite the focus on email communications, 33 per cent of respondents stated that they felt they were doing enough to support financial wellbeing and pensions via communications, whilst 6 per cent were unsure and 13 per cent felt they were not.

However, a further 48 per cent admitted that they are not doing enough to support financial wellbeing and pensions through communications, but are planning to do more in future.

Commenting on the findings, Aon UK lead, workplace pensions & financial wellbeing, Martin Parish, highlighted it as a "concern" that email remains the most used form of communication when there are so many more varied and targeted options available.

He stated: “It’s vital that employers and schemes don’t waste the opportunity to engage with employees throughout their careers. It’s the only way that employees can better understand how their pension plan can offer financial resilience, financial confidence and, hopefully, financial freedom at retirement.

“2020 undoubtedly caused many people distress on pension-related matters, with investment volatility and reduced pension contributions due to furlough or changed retirement plans all becoming issues.

“While employers can provide access to a range of material and information which will support their efforts to build a more resilient workforce, 35 per cent of them do not offer any form of financial education at all. And that is at odds with the 61 per cent of employers who agree that they are responsible for influencing employee financial wellbeing.”

More broadly, the survey revealed that there has been a small increase employers reviewing their pension schemes since the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015, up from 69 per cent last year to 72 per cent in 2021.

Despite this, it also found that a "significant number" (12 per cent) of respondents have still not reviewed this aspect of their pension scheme.

Parish warning that this could mean that they are operating arrangements which are not geared to optimising employee retirement outcomes, as well as missing out on a "vital opportunity" to ensure their workplace pension strategy remains fit for purpose.

The provider also said that it is "encouraging" that 32 per cent of employers are planning to review their pension scheme in the next 12 months, although a further 48 per cent of schemes confirmed that they are not planning to review their pension in the next year.

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