Come on Sage – you can and should do better!

Sage auto-enrol

Sage are a great British success story. Over the past 20 years they have become pre-eminent as a payroll software supplier and latterly a portal for a range of back-office business solutions. is itself a business customer, using SagePay to collect payments from those choosing a pension.

But – (and you knew there’d be a “but”) – Sage is simply not cutting the mustard when it comes to auto-enrolment …..and it matters.

Sage are going to be the first port of call for many accountants and book-keepers. “Sage Exchange for Accountants & Bookkeepers” is a division of Sage set up to further Sage’s out-reach through training. Sadly much of the site is in need of a technical refresh, not least the section on pension reform which has clearly not been revisited for a couple of years.


“Mutton dressed as lamb” training

I am not being teccy and criticising the Sage auto-enrolment module, which – when I’ve used it – has proved fit for purpose, I’m talking about Sage’s engagement with its customer base and in particular the training it is offering.

If you want to learn about auto-enrolment from Sage, you have two options. Firstly you can sign up to a half day’s training;

This comes either as classroom training or through payroll seminars. The classroom training is £300 +VAT and the seminars are £249 +VAT.

For the more expensive classroom module you get

Time Agenda
15 mins Introduction to Auto Enrolment
75 mins Auto Enrolment Legislation
15 Mins Break
60 Mins The Pensions Module
15 Mins Questions & Finish

For the payroll seminar you get

Time Session
09:00 Registration, Tea & Coffee
09:30 The Pensions Regulator explains what Auto Enrolment is and your responsibilities
11:00 Tea & Coffee Break
11:15 How can Sage help you with Auto Enrolment
12:30 Finish & lunch


What will you learn?

  • Introduction to Auto Enrolment
  • Preparing your practice and Sage Payroll for Auto Enrolment
  • Assessing your workforce
  • Applying pension scheme to eligible employees
  • Processing of pensions
  • On-going tasks (re-evaluating your workforce, employees opting in/out, pension refunds)
  • FAQs

Now before you scurry off to get your credit cards out, let’s have a look at what you weren’t learn.

What won’t you learn?

  • Who offers pensions and who’ll offer one to you
  • What the different types of pension do
  • The way contributions of different types of pensions are taxed
  • How to choose the right pension for you
  • How to consult with your staff
  • How to tell your staff the pension decision you’ve taken

It is shocking to me , that an organisation as big and as talented as Sage is still training its customers to not know so much.

Attendees will come away with a CPD certificate, knowledge of how to use Sage’s software and a general training from the Pension Regulator but without the slightest understanding of what auto-enrolment is really about- providing more money for staff in retirement.


Putting something back?

Sage are leaning heavily on the Pensions Regulator here. TPR is providing people for these training days and payroll seminars free of charge.

So what you are actually getting from Sage is training on how to use their auto-enrolment module (which for those who are not signed up to it – is in effect a sales pitch).

Which means that Sage are simply paying for the hotel and the food. Whether you’re paying £249 or £300 (+VAT) this looks like a pretty good deal for Sage and a pretty poor deal for everyone else.

To my mind, Sage can should be doing a whole lot more here. For six months we have been trying to engage with them over the advisory issues surrounding pensions and we continue to call on Sage to pay some attention to the pension.

Sage are net beneficiaries of auto-enrolment, they are taking the free assistance on offer from tPR, they are taking substantial amounts in fees, they are issuing CPD certificates but they are delivering very little themselves to help employers and agents understand the wider aspects of auto-enrolment.

These seminars are all take and  no give!


Our advice to Sage

As mentioned earlier on this blog, auto-enrolment needs more training and less selling. We have secured a grant to provide pension training to payroll agents and directly to employers. What’s more, we’ve chosen to deliver our service to and through payroll software companies of which Sage is by far the biggest.

So Sage is actually looking our gift-horse in the mouth, preferring to say nothing about pensions than include experts on their training roster.

Our advice to Sage is to wake up and smell the coffee. Auto-enrolment is not about the Sage auto-enrolment module, it is about getting 10m employees, 1.8m new employers into workplace pensions.

You are currently offering Hamlet without the Prince. But the Prince is sitting in the audience and will jump on stage. For everyone’s good, let’s get Pensions back into auto-enrolment training and let’s get Sage’s training into a meaningful space!

I am available for meaningful conversations on the pension aspects of auto-enrolment training at .



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Come on Sage – you can and should do better!

  1. Ruth Gilbert says:

    Despite the development of Sage One, it seems this company is still not geared towards the needs of small businesses. As we painfully discovered some years ago on following our accountants’ advice to use Sage to save time and money for our accounting. From both Sage and that accountancy firm we got the opposite. What a relief once we found alternatives fit for purpose.

    That time it didn’t matter what Sage did. The easy option was to switch to Kashflow (or Xero or Freelancer or…other accounting software services are available!)
    This time it really does matter, as the companies and employes stuck with Sage now look to be stuck with likely rubbish pension outcomes. A costly mistake not just for one year but for 30 odd years of retirement.

    Come on Sage, it’s not too late to do the right thing.

  2. Margaret Armitt says:

    I have just read this regarding Sage training and agree 100% that Sage is using Auto Enrolment as a sales pitch and offer little assistance to the employers regarding this difficult issue. They are using Auto Enrolment as a profit making exercise and have put very little into their systems to make the extra expense value for money.
    It has been my expreience that the Sage Pensions is not fit for purpose, we needed to insist that a specific report be written for our use to ensure that we could upload the csv file to our pensions provider. This process took a massive amount of time and energy that as a busy payroll provider we did not really have.

  3. henry tapper says:

    Well I’m pleased to say that I’m working with Sage to put this right Margaret. Since this article (which is 18 months old) I have seen an improvement in Sage’s position re auto-enrolment. Indeed I would call them progressive.

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