SMEs are discovering the hidden benefits of auto enrolment

Only a quarter of businesses that have not yet auto enrolled believe that the new requirement is a positive benefit for small businesses, with this figure more than doubling once they have been through the staging process.

Of those that agree auto enrolment is positive for small businesses, they see improvements in employee engagement, attraction and retention of staff and even productivity.

However, there is concern over small businesses’ ability to meet on-going governance requirements. One in four senior decision makers in companies with 50 employees or less believe that the knowledge of the business on both pensions and pensions regulation is poor, with an even greater number considering their own knowledge to be of an equally low standard.

Levels of confidence also vary between the genders with 40 per cent of male business decision makers in SMEs rating their grasp of pensions and pensions regulation as good or excellent, compared to only 29 per cent of females.

The cumulative effect is that only just over half who are yet to enroll have the confidence that they can meet all the on-going legal obligations of the process.

The research also finds that most businesses draw on assistance when navigating auto enrolment, with three quarters of businesses who have staged engaging in some form of external support to help implement the process.

Grant Hughes, head of SME at Barclays Corporate & Employer Solutions, which commissioned the research, said: “It is encouraging to see so many businesses realising the advantages of auto enrolment after implementation. While workplace pensions have clear benefits for employees, they also present an opportunity for businesses to use them as a tool for employee engagement, and we are increasingly seeing businesses establish them as the foundation on which to build a broader benefits package.

“However, while businesses are becoming increasingly positive towards auto enrolment, it is important that they approach the process correctly. We know that different demographics undertake implementation in separate ways but we have seen how easy it is for all decision makers to underestimate the complexity of the process and the time it takes.

“To implement an effective workplace pension and realise the benefits, small businesses should take the time to find the solution which best suits them and their requirements. We help employers with their auto enrolment journey and offer a broad range of modular solutions, enabling small businesses to manage the process effectively and get quickly back to the day job. They don’t have to go it alone.”