15th December 2015

Small businesses in the North-East could have just weeks to start auto enrolling staff into workplace pension schemes in order to avoid tough penalties, experts at business advisers UNW have warned.

The Newcastle firm of chartered accountants, which recently celebrated auto enrolling its 1,000th worker on behalf of employers, say it is imperative that SMEs in the region find out the exact date they are legally required to have enrolled their staff by – known as their ‘staging’ date. This could be as soon as January and varies depending on employee numbers.

The warning comes after recent Pension Regulator research showed that almost two thirds of small and micro employers still do not know the exact date they need to start complying with automatic enrolment law.

As of next year, up to 1.8 million small and micro employers in the UK will begin approaching the date when their workplace pension duties come into effect.

UNW Employment Tax and Payroll partner Lee Muter said: “The Government found that too few workers were putting money into a pension and so, as a way to encourage employees to start saving for their retirement, auto enrolment was introduced.

“Most larger companies have already enrolled their staff into schemes but the deadlines for smaller businesses to comply are now looming and it is crucial that every business knows its own deadline for putting qualifying employees into a pension scheme. For some businesses with less than 30 staff that could be as soon as January 1, which is just weeks away.

“Implementation and administration may be considered burdensome and complex for many businesses of this size and UNW can help source the pension schemes and consider their requirements at the outset. We can also help administer the schemes and help ensure there are no penalties, which can be pretty significant.”

The Great Run Company, formerly known as Nova International, has been assisted by UNW to enrol its staff into a pension scheme and is urging other North-East companies not to get left behind in the race for enrolment.

The Great Run Company finance director Mark Rutherford said: “We have been working with UNW’s payroll team for more than five years and their proactive service has been invaluable in helping us to understand the requirements of auto enrolment. I would really recommend that North-East employers do not delay in seeking help in considering what their legal obligations are to avoid receiving a fine.”

UNW’s accounting services department currently handles traditional payroll services for 20,000 employees a year, having taken on one new payroll client a week since January this year.

Between July and September this year the Pension Regulator issued: 469 compliance notices, 85 unpaid contributions notices, 107 fixed penalty notices and two escalating penalty notices, with fines ranging from £400 to £10,000.

Businesses can check their precise staging dates at: www.autoenrolment.co.uk/staging-dates or contact the UNW payroll team on leemuter@unw.co.uk for advice.

Picture caption: The race to enrol: The Great Run Company who employ the 1,000th member of staff UNW has helped enrol into a pension scheme.

Photo credit: Great North Run – thanks to Scott Heppell.

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