More work to do to continue the 'pension revolution' - TPR

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has said that there is “more to do” to ensure that the “pension revolution” continues to provide better retirements for savers, including implementing automatic enrolment (AE) reforms.

TPR director of AE, Mel Charles, emphasised the success of AE so far, stating that it has led to an “explosion” in the number of people saving, with more than 10 million people now saving because of the initiative.

He also flagged recent research from the Department for Work and Pensions, which showed that despite financial pressures caused by the pandemic, staff have continued to save for their retirement and pensions contributions have remained steady.

However, Charles stressed that whilst the industry has come a long way, there is still more to do, admitting that “some warning signs remain”.

“We know for example that while the number of women saving into a pension is equal to the number of men, women are not saving as much,” he said.

“We also know that there are fewer people from some ethnic minority groups who are saving and that some workers with multiple jobs are missing out on the opportunity to save.”

In light of this, Charles emphasised that TPR remains supportive of the 2017 AE review proposals, which seek to open up workplace pensions to more savers, welcoming proposals to reduce the age threshold in particular.

The government also previously committed to implementing the 2017 AE recommendations in the "mid-2020's" in an effort to expand coverage of the auto-enrolment initiative.

Alongside this, Charles warned that TPR is also keeping a "close eye" on the gig economy, arguing that it is only right that workers who contribute to the economy have the opportunity to save for retirement.

He said: “We are calling on all employers in the gig economy to step up and do the right thing for their staff. We want to see employers in all sectors comply with their responsibilities voluntarily and promptly.

“We work to ensure all savers are protected – no matter what sector they work in and we will take enforcement action to ensure staff receive the pensions they are entitled to.”

TPR previously urged gig economy employers to proactively enrol workers in pensions after a court ruling declared that Uber's employees were classed as workers, and therefore entitled to employment rights.

More broadly, Charles said that whilst many employers are navigating challenging times, as TPR works to put savers at the heart of all it does, it will act where necessary to protect staff, reiterating previous calls to avoid neglecting AE duties amid the fallout of the pandemic.

He said: “Operationally, on the ground we continue to work to ensure employers know about their duties and have the support and information they need to comply.

"And we continue to take enforcement action where necessary to ensure eligible staff do not miss out on the pensions they are due.

“Employers also have more to do. It’s crucial they continue to meet their ongoing duties, so staff receive the pensions they are entitled to. These include ensuring pensions contributions are up to date and completing re-enrolment responsibilities.

“Re-enrolment is important because it gives staff who opted out a fresh opportunity to start saving. Indications are that often, when staff who originally opted out of their pension are re-enrolled by their employer, they take advantage of the new opportunity to start saving."

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