Calls for AE reform grow amid member adequacy concerns

Almost half (46 per cent) of UK workers aren’t confident that they’ll have enough saved for a comfortable retirement, despite auto-enrolment bringing improvements in participation rates, research from Barnett Waddingham has revealed.

This lack of confidence was more prevalent amongst certain demographics, rising to 51 per cent amongst women, 53 per cent amongst 35–54-year-olds, and 68 per cent for those with no pension other than the state pension.

However, Barnett Waddingham suggested this lack of confidence is “not unfounded”, explaining that while auto enrolment has increased pension participation rates, most are not saving the amount they need to, while others are falling through the gaps altogether.

Indeed, according to Barnett Waddingham’s research, one in five (20 per cent) Brits doesn't have any private or workplace pension, increasing to 26 per cent amongst women, compared to 13 per cent of men.

It explained that auto-enrolment’s strict banding has excluded a number of savers, with 13 per cent of working Brits excluded from auto enrolment altogether due to their income structure.

Those earning below the £10,000 auto-trigger, but above the lower earnings limit of £6,240 can opt-in to a workplace pension and receive the mandatory employer contribution.

According to the research, around 14 per cent of people are in this position, rising to 15 per cent amongst women, and 19 per cent amongst those aged 18-24.

However, 11 per cent of those entitled based on income have a DC pension which they’re not paying into, while 20 per cent of those eligible to be opted-in based on age (22 to 65), aren’t paying into their DC pension either.

More broadly, the survey found that 70 per cent of people who can opt in say they have done so, while nearly a third (29 per cent) have not, and could be missing out on employer contributions and tax relief.

Barnett Waddingham partner and head of DC, Mark Futcher, commented: “The auto-enrolment legislation excludes a huge number of low earners, including almost one in ten full-time workers.

"The government has opted to keep the minimum earnings band at £10,000 a year, despite multiple calls to scrap it.

"The new Minister for Pensions must rethink this; if they don’t, it falls to employers to consider increasing remuneration to their staff to account for the lack of long-term savings.

“Separately, of the 20 million people saving into a workplace pension, the vast majority aren’t saving enough. Savings rates have plateaued at the minimum contribution level.

"The government had a ripe opportunity to include a 1 per cent employee contribution hike every two or three years, which would have moved many people towards the recommended 12 per cent saving rate.

"Instead, they failed to capitalise on the success; as the cost-of-living crisis worsens, it’s arguable they’ve missed their chance.”

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