Confusing messaging on workplace pensions

workie + man

Tom McPhail – the Stone Roses’ new vocalist?

To the melodious backing of the Stone Roses’ “All for one“, Tom McPhail can be heard on radio today warning the world about small master trusts that could go wrong.

“All for one – one for all – If we all join hands we’ll make a wall”.

Well that’s the Stone Roses for you and sadly the comment from Eleanor Oldroyd &Co on Five Live following the piece was all about the Stone Roses and not about Tom.

It will clearly take the failure of a master trust (or any other workplace pension) to ignite the interest of the media, but tis pushing this story is clearly getting traction.

As well as the Beeb’s version , it’s here on ITV and the Mail are also running the story, all rehashes of the  official version on Parliament.

So just what is the story? Well this is about a report from the DWP Select Committee into auto-enrolment which can be read here.

The report is pretty clear about what needs to be done about master-trusts, it wants new legislation brought in through a Pensions Bill (which could be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech. Specifically, the Select Committee are calling for;-

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So it’s not hard to see why Radio 5 live were rather more interested in the Stone Roses.


What the headlines don’t say

Amidst all the noise about master trusts and their vulnerability, the three recommendations of the DWP Select Committee’s report have been virtually ignored.

They are

  • the AE campaign  – famously featuring a “giant psychedelically decorated furry creature called Workie” – should now focus on the financial consequences of non-compliance, emphasising that AE cannot be ignored
  • DWP should provide reassurance to small and micro-employers about where liability will fall if their chosen pension scheme performs badly or fails
  • DWP should work with HMRC to expand Basic PAYE Tools to support small businesses in meeting their AE obligations: it must be as easy as possible for small businesses to participate without additional cost

I’m sure that Andy Agethangelou , who has focussed on Workie’s deterrence , will be pleased that others agree that Workie should be a terrorist.

The third point is a suggestion from Craig Mackinlay MP, who sits on the Committee and is worth discussion later (I totally disagree with the solution but am glad that Craig is raising the subject)

The final point, which I suspect is also arising from lobbying by Andy and the CIPP is close to my heart.

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There is a great deal within the report that discusses Charlotte Clark’s statement;-

If you have decided to go with NEST, rather than NOW or People’s, there is no liability that can fall on you as an employer.

Tristan Mander of Ward Hathaway, demolishes this argument in the document, the DWP know full well that NEST cannot be given “safe harbour” status under UK or EU law without a major revision.  NEST is entirely inappropriate as a workplace pension for some people and some organisations and – much as I like Charlotte- this statement needs not just to be clarified – it needs to be withdrawn.


Doing the job properly

The messaging from the DWP Select Committee is confused. Frank Field’s letter to George Osborne on 4th May has been erroneously linked with the BHS Pension Scheme’s funding deficit. As my blogs and my comments on the radio emphasis, the letter is about thelegislation that needs to be enacted (kicking off with the Queen’s Speech).

The recommendations of the Select Committee do not need fresh legislation, they simply call on the DWP to get its act together. The urgent need is to make it clear to employers that auto-enrolment should not be a NEST shoe-in and that employers must do more to engage with the workplace pension. The last word should go to Tristan Mander who recommends that employers should

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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen, Director of First Actuarial, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Confusing messaging on workplace pensions

  1. Clare Abrahams says:

    And at the same time we have the Pension Regulator’s website referring to NEST as “The Government Scheme”!!!! Absolutely shocking!!

  2. henry tapper says:

    The messages are indeed mixed!

  3. Mike Lacey says:

    Charlotte Clark’s statement really is astonishing, on many levels. It seems to give a clear pointer towards NEST at the potential expense of NOW etc, nit to mention GPP providers who simply don’t feature on tPRs website – although I understand that may change…

  4. henry tapper says:

    Charlotte has been there from the start and her comment is in the context of her committment not just to AE but to NEST too. She had Helen Dean as a protoge and she has responsibility for that £400m loan! You can understand her comments in this light- but she still shouldn’t have said this (IMO).

    That said- she is one of the best civil servants I have ever met!

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