Morrisons – auto-enrolment hero to pension zero

When the staging of auto-enrolment started in 2012, one UK employer stood out for going above and beyond the requirements of law, that firm was  Morrisons.

Nearly 9 years ago to the day, I wrote a blog “It worked for Wendy, How Morrisons staged auto-enrolment”

In it , I praised Wendy Taylor, the supermarket’s HRD not just for providing a cash-balance DB plan for its 14,000 workers, but with it, an employee engagement plan that worked.

It wasn’t a plan that lasted. In 2015, Morrisons consulted with USDAW- its union – on moving members of its final salary plans to cash balance.

Since then the cash balance scheme has been closed and Morrisons has become a participating employer  of the Aviva Master Trust,

I am now having to write a blog , not about Morrisons as a model employer, but about the very opposite.

This week  it has proposed another cut to its pension benefits.  It has issued a consultation to reduce the 5% employer contribution to 4% and then to 3%, the bare minimum allowable under auto-enrolment,

It is proposing that employees increase their contributions to 5%. at a time when opt-out rates are increasing as people struggle to pay their bills.

Morrisons are giving the flimsiest of excuses. According to Personnel today

Unite said that Morrisons planned to make the changes because of forthcoming legislation to extend pensions automatic enrolment to employees under the age of 22. The Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023 gained Royal Assent in September, but no date for its introduction has seen set.

Morrisons are arguing that the amount of money it is putting into colleague pensions will actually be going up when the auto enrolment changes come in.

The Government hasn’t brought in the 2017 AE reforms yet and though a private member’s bill, has facilitated the proposed increases, there is no guarantee of when the increases will come in – if ever they do. Morrisons are reacting to fantasy pension increases with clearly defined pension cuts.

I am with Unite in deploring this kind of behavior. If the reaction of a profitable business is to pre-empt possible increases in pension contributions by slashing their contributions and hiking staff contributions at any time, that is reprehensible.

But to do it at a time of extreme vulnerability when the cost of mortgages and rent is soaring and where Morrisons fiercest competitor is the food bank is verging on the despicable,

What would Wendy Taylor , the enlightened HRD who introduced the high quality pension in 2012 sayt today?

This is what I said about Morrisons in 2012

There is of course…a reason this worked and that’s because Morrisons wanted it to. It seems that the company got all its board lined up behind Wendy and the governance of the process seems to have been inclusive (a wide steering group meeting monthly and a working group meeting weekly). You only get that level of buy-in by showing an abundance of leadership.

I suspect when Wendy Taylor left, Morrison took their foot off the pension pedal. Morrisons seems to have been decelerating ever since and now seem to have gone into reverse.

Thanks to Richard Hulbert for intel.

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 Morrisons – auto-enrolment hero to pension zero

  1. Peter Wilson says:

    I suspect the latest proposed changes are more to do with the now private owners of Morissons milking it for cash. I’m not really sure why anyone would expect anything different? Buy a public company that is ‘generous’ to its employees, trim expenses to the bone, including those to staff, re-float the now much leaner company for a huge profit.

  2. Tim Simpson says:

    Hello Henry,
    I agree with Peter Wilson’s comment above. If I’m right they have been bought by an equity business…! I would think that Wendy Taylor worked for the original company who made Morrisons what it became.

    Would we be surprised if, within five years, it was closed down after all its sites had been sold-off for flats etc. We’ve seen it before often enough. The firm that bought ASDA are, I understand, UK retailers in their own right. ASDA may hopefully survive.

    Kind regards
    Tim Simpson

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