Why I’m encouraging civil disobedience!

civil disobedience

I’ve been spending  a little time catching up on the Pension Regulator’s website- well it is Christmas after all.

I’ve come across this.   It’s a guide to employers on how they should talk to their staff about pensions. It is not very inspiring.

You should be careful not to present information in a way that persuades or incites workers to take a particular course of action, or give advice on tax or the benefits of taking a particular action.

My Mum told me that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If I’m going to auto-enrol my staff into a pension, I’ll tell them it’s for their own good – I will encourage them to save for their retirement and I’ll do my best to get them to contribute adequately to their future needs.

I suspect that this puts me on a collision course with the Pensions Regulator- so be it!


Over 1.2m employers over the next three years will have the job of telling staff they are joining a pension scheme whether they like it or not. When asked why this is employers are to present information like robots with no encouragement, no enthusiasm, no joy or verve.

But this is not how we behave as small employers. We explain things to our staff with vigour, with passion, with humour – with joy. That is how we motivate our staff.

When I hear our Pension Minister talk about the success of auto-enrolment, I hear passion and enthusiasm that less than one in ten staff are opting out, that employer compliance is high and that the business community is getting behind auto-enrolment.

I do not think I am being irresponsible if I talk to people enthusiastically about workplace pensions, encouraging them to stay in their scheme , take advantage of the tax breaks and save for the future.

I think it irresponsible to encourage employers to meet their duties but discourage them from promoting the workplace pension they have chosen for their staff.

Furthermore, I think it a poor state of affairs that Government can impose on employers the duty of establishing a workplace pension, the auto-enrolment infrastructure and on-going contributions into the pension without being able to encourage people to save.

By comparison, US legislators actively encourage employers to increase participation rates in their (401K) workplace pension plans. These plans have anti-discrimination rules that mean that “highly compensated” workers cannot get their tax reliefs unless “lowly compensated” employees participate in the plan.

So everyone at the top has a reason to encourage everyone at the bottom to save into the workplace pension.

We are in danger of forgetting why we are auto-enrolling so eager are we to encourage auto-enrolment compliance. The natural enthusiasm for saving that informs Steve Webb’s behaviour should be consistent to all levels of Government.

I don’t suggest we become pension evangelists, but if we can’t tell staff it is in their interests to save for the long-term, why are we bothering?

We are on the cusp of a new year. In 2015 the number of employers having to fulfil their duties increases by a factor of five over 2014. These employers have – for the most part, no history of running workplace pensions for their staff.

If they are to embrace auto-enrolment, they must feel the benefit. We do not encourage participation with higher levels of tax relief (as in the States) but we can at least encourage employers to advertise the benefits of workplace pensions, of staying in and of making reasonable contributions to their pensions.

In short , we should challenge the Pension Regulator’s edict

You should be careful not to present information in a way that persuades or incites workers to take a particular course of action, or give advice on tax or the benefits of taking a particular action





About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Why I’m encouraging civil disobedience!

  1. Stephen Pett says:

    I would have said that the issue was with the FCA not the pensions regulator. Any employer considered over enthusiastic faces massive fines for acting as a financial adviser without being authorised.
    I am surprised that you didn’t realise that the FCAs mission continues from that of the FSA which is to confuse the public, prevent them from getting financial advice and create lots of highly paid jobs for the boys. 380,000 financial advisers down, just 23,000 to go.
    Then the Money Advice Service (which doesn’t provide advice) will rule, KO.

    • henry tapper says:

      We need one sympathetic enthusiastic regulator

      • Stephen Pett says:

        I have spent many hours wondering what the Regulators have against the public (as apposed to the wealthy) getting advice. Initially, I thought they were being paid by the US so they could take over. But no, that doesn’t fit the facts.
        The latest Sony debacle may give us a clue…..

  2. Stephen Pett says:

    Are things improving? Certainly not as far as the bottom 95% of UK folk are concerned! The banks, and the wealthy, as ever, are being treated with great respect by the Regulator. The rest can go hang themselves as far as the FCA are concerned.

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