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Higher education institutions now have just over a year to prepare for the auto-enrolment regime. Depending on staff numbers, the deadline will fall between 1 March and 1 September 2013 for most universities. The precise date can be found on the staging date timeline published by The Pensions Regulator.
Although most defined benefit schemes will in practice confer more than the auto-enrolment minimum level of benefits required, employers will still need to decide how best to fit these schemes into the auto-enrolment structure. For example, instead of changing the rules of their existing occupational scheme to align them with the requirements of auto-enrolment, employers could make separate arrangements for staff who do not qualify for membership, by, for instance, enrolling them in NEST. Cost and administrative convenience, together with the views of staff and unions, are likely to be key considerations.
Among many other things, HEIs will also need to consider whether to take advantage of the four year transitional period for defined benefit schemes. They will also need to decide whether to serve postponement notices to exclude staff with less than three months’ service and address the treatment of members of staff (known somewhat confusingly as “entitled employees”) who do not qualify for auto-enrolment but who must be given access to a pension scheme, though not necessarily up to auto-enrolment standards. To support employers in their decision-making, the Pensions Regulator has set up a guidance page on its website, with access to a number of detailed guidance notes.
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