How hard is it for us to get those who care for others , the same pension rights as those of us cared for by our employers? Rather hard – it would seem – at least according to yesterday’s Moneybox.
The program went out at mid-day yesterday, but Paul Lewis had been trailing it on twitter. In the process, he highlighted some of the issues we still have to face as we seek to include those who have historically been excluded from funded pension provision.
It’s brave and right for Paul to highlight these issues now. The Pension Regulator has chosen to dry run a tranche of these dis-enfranchised people who will be staged in June of this year (ahead of their natural staging date in June).
Getting to grips with how this will work – it’s hard!
Paul Lewis, Jo Cumbo, Brian Hill and Annie Shaw- four pension experts who got roped into a cacophony of confusion.
Paul Lewis kicked off
But his second statement was unintentionally mis-leading
Brian Hill picked up on this
“NE” stands for non-eligible workers, they’re the ones too old or young to be automatically enrolled but who are still “entitled” to an employer contribution.
Although “entitled” is a confusing term in this context, because there is another class of earners- the very low paid who are “entitled” to be in a workplace pension scheme but not to a contribution to a scheme.
Paul Lewis picked up on this.
Meanwhile, a whole bunch of people were queuing up to ask Paul just who , when and why disabled people had to pay their carers pension contributions. It’s hardly surprising that many of them were confused, baffled and frustrated.
When even the experts can’t agree, confidence in the process is threatened
Here we have more confusion about who are workers are not. The rules are supposed to be clear- if you are self-employed and regularly invoice one organisation, you will be considered a worker of that organisation and that organisation will be responsible for providing you with a pension contribution into its workplace pension.
It seems a bit of a mess right now.
This discussion is a foretaste of things to come. It proves two things;
- that the rules at present are so complicated that even experts tie themselves up in knots trying to explain them
- that this confusion is amplified by those trying to learn through social media!
But we’re making sure that no-one gets left behind
The eligibility rules for auto-enrolment are little understood and I suspect often broken. I am sure that there are many non-eligible jobholders who have no idea that they could opt-in to an employer contribution and a lot of workers who have no idea that they are “eligible, entitled or non-eligible (but entitled to contributions).
Carers are special people, they need pensions too.
The issue of carers is very emotive. Many think that disabled people have to find the costs of their own care- some do – but most don’t. Some are cared for by the state and some have funds that pay the costs (typically as a result of a legal claim). The administrators of these funds are professionals who should be aware of their responsibilities to manage auto-enrolment on behalf of those for whom they have a fiduciary responsibility.
The fact is that auto-enrolment does not make emotive judgements on whether it is right or wrong for an employer to be involved, it treats all employers the same, whether they are Tesco , the parents of a nanny or the fiduciary of a disabled person.
A step towards simplification
This is why we need to be clearer about these employer duties and ensure that they are as simple as can be.
Personally, I feel that the complexities of these different types of eligibility and the various tiers of contributions are not needed anymore. But it is really hard to say goodbye to them because they are there for complex organisations who have spent thousands if not millions of pounds in operational changes to comply with these regulations
Simplifying complex regulations for the simpler needs of smaller employers needs skill and knowledge; fortunately we have a Pension Regulator which has both and – at the DWP- a group of legislators who are immersed in these issues and have been for nearly a decade now.
The point of doing this trial run in June, is to find out exactly what needs to be changed for 2016 and 2017.
We are learning as we go.
Twitter discussions like this morning’s may not be elegant, but from them may come a new understanding which may make it possible to get carers into auto-enrolment in a simpler , less-confusing way.
Social media is – at times like this- exasperating. It shows the workings of the process, not the finished process. But without discussions like that which went on this morning (and an equally complicated exchange over nannies earlier in the week – progress will be slower!