‘Auto enrolment job far from complete’ – Pensions Regulator’s executive director

Office workers to illustrate auto enrolment

Financial planning in association with Scottish Widows bannerSeven million people now have a workplace pension thanks to auto enrolment. As Charles Counsell, executive director of automatic enrolment at the Pensions Regulator, explains, the hard work has only just begun…

Ever since plans for automatic enrolment were announced in 2012, they have been accompanied by a succession of doom-laden prophecies that have simply failed to materialise.

Back then, the road ahead for auto enrolment was one peppered with talk of ‘bulges’, ‘capacity crunches’ and even a ‘tsunami of employers’ set to overwhelm us.

We were not setting up the auto enrolment programme to be a disaster, but to be a success. I preferred to liken the volume of employers that were coming to the foothills and peaks of a mountain range – perfectly climbable with great care and excellent preparation.

And, so far, the doubters have conclusively proven conclusively wrong. Today more than seven million workers have been put into a pension and in excess of 340,000 employers have complied with their duties.

However, I was compelled to agree with one commentator who stated that as we entered 2017 the job was far from done.

Success will not build complacency and I know that new and even greater challenges lie ahead.

Failing to comply with auto enrolment

Over the coming year, we will be helping to steer more than 700,000 small and micro employers through their workplace pension duties. My team and I remain committed to doing all we can to maintain the high levels of compliance we have seen so far and we will continue to provide information and help to ensure employers can meet their duties.

But we are clear too that if an employer fails to comply with the law then they will face enforcement action. This is a key part in changing behaviour and making compliance the norm. The expectation of the majority who comply is to ‘see’ that those who don’t will face some punishment.

Our latest figures out today show the small minority of employers who fail to do the right thing by their staff are facing investigations and penalties. A tiny number have already needlessly risked their credit rating after failing to pay fines.

The news about fines may grab the headlines, but the real story today is about the thousands of employers who have successfully navigated their auto enrolment journey and many more preparing to do so in the coming months. No one at The Pensions Regulator will be taking their eye off the ball to ensure that this continues to be a good news story.


Charles Counsell joined the board of the Pensions Regulator in July 2011 as executive director of automatic enrolment, having served as the interim executive director for six months prior to that.

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