Some help is at hand for Britain’s SMEs and their business advisers, but there needs to be signposting to specialist advisers that can apply tPR’s guidance and offer a “definitive course of action”.
The Pension Regulator has published some new guidance to employers and their advisors on choosing a pension scheme which can be found here.
The guidance includes some help on the tricky choice of tax-relief to use for your staff though it stops short of listing those schemes that operate under net pay and those that offer relief at source (and the scheme that swings both ways).
The Pension Regulator is a good regulator and the best resource, those of us setting up auto-enrolment arrangements have. What’s more , it has just about the best organised web-site of any Government department in the UK – especially for enquiries around auto-enrolment.
Nonetheless, there is more for the Regulator to do.
Without a list of providers and what type of tax relief they offer, their guidance leads nowhere- other than to an adviser who probably has no clue about the issue. That’s not me having a dig at advisers, but this kind of advice (unless your Stevie Brice or Chris Daems or a handfull of others) is not something you do.
So where can you go to for help?
Today is Michelle Cracknell’s birthday (happy birthday!) and it’s the day that the Pension Advisory Service open their auto-enrolment helpline which is- wait for it-
0207 630 2705
This helpline is for members who have been enrolled and for people considering whether to opt in , out or who simply want to know what auto-enrolment is about.
You get to speak to a real person and that person will know their onions. I can say that because we have been hassling TPAS for this helpline for ages and TPAS do not offer a service they cannot deliver. The wait will have been worth it!
Guidance and Advice
Although the Pension Advisory Service has Advice in its name, it can only give you the relevant information necessary to help you make your decision.
If you are an employer, responsible for setting up an auto-enrolment pension scheme for your staff, TPAS can only point you to an adviser who can tell you what you should do.
TPAS is there to help members not employers but it can signpost where employers, and staff interested enough to get involved with the employer’s decision- WHERE TO GO.
Where to go for advice
Pension ignorance of employers and their business advisers- accountants and payroll bureaux, is very high.
Decisions such as what type of tax relief to go for are decisions most employers and their advisers cannot take.
Even less, can they articulate what they are looking for in a provider’s investment strategy, how they assess at retirement options and what due diligence they do to understand whether a workplace pension will be around in a few years.
But these are the things the Regulator wants employers to consider when making an informed choice on behalf of staff.
There is only one place where employers and their advisers can go for comprehensive specific advice on what to do. That place is www.pensionplaypen.com
For the Regulator, TPAS and representative bodies to make available the skill and knowledge which underpins the advice in www.pensionplaypen.com, we need publicity.
We need direct signposting from tPR and TPAS and from the websites of the representative bodies to our pages so that employers can make informed choices.
We call on Government to recognise the advice gap that exists and to promote our service (and any like it) to the 1.8m employers who have nowhere else to go for this particular help.
To do so carries some risk but not to do so carries more. The risk to Britain of 1.8m employers buying blind a complex financial product for their staff is much higher than the risk of recommending specific advisors prepared to stand up and be counted.