In 2022, The People’s Pension and auto-enrolment will be 10 years old and we’ve both come a long way in that time.
The People’s Pension now has 5.6 million members and more than £16 billion of assets under management. We’re a core provider in a system which has brought more than 10 million workers in the United Kingdom into pension saving – something that was a dream just a decade ago.
Like many other national workplace pension saving systems, the UK’s auto-enrolment regime is still being refined as it matures. The government has either promised to enact or is considering a range of changes in 2022, which will impact on pension schemes and their members. There are other items which are at the review stage. We also think there are a couple of areas where the government and regulators need to look at how recent rules are being implemented in practice.
Timetable for reforms is needed
The government has promised to change some of the initial auto-enrolment rules to ensure that employees save more towards their retirement. These amendments would lower the age limit for auto-enrolment to 18 and calculate people’s pension contributions from the first pound they earn.
We’re also calling on the government to lower the £10,000 earnings trigger to the lower earnings threshold for National Insurance – of £6,240 – to help 1.3 million more people, the clear majority women, save through auto-enrolment. We hope that during 2022 the government will set out its timeline for making these improvements.
The DWP will also need space in the legislative calendar to pursue another major pension reform. The minister has rightly been pressing workplace pension providers to come up with a low-cost consolidation system for small pots. The outline of such a system is now available. To be made operational, however, it needs the DWP to put in place a statutory framework. Two areas which are not yet ripe for any rule changes but will be under review in 2022, are annual statements and retirement products in workplace schemes.
Learning lessons from abroad
Our wish list for items we would like the government and regulators to look at in 2022 also includes enforcement of value for money and greenwashing investments. The first would, of course, only follow once the government concludes its current work on how to measure it. But the lesson from Australia is that value for money rules only start to have an impact on the market once the pension regulator begins to check that it is being applied rigorously.
Pension schemes are also required to play an important role in combatting climate change. However, without better guidance as to which kinds of investment are genuinely sustainable, there is a risk that competition could drive down standards. Some schemes may be tempted to undertake superficial activity to signal green credentials to customers, where the investment risks releasing increased amounts of carbon in the future.
We look forward to celebrating the two significant anniversaries in 2022, while continuing to work to make the saving experience easier and more attractive for employees.