The UK may have been turbulent politically for the past few years but one clear success from the government during this time has been the positive impact and success of auto enrolment. With the UK facing a pensions crisis, the introduction of auto enrolment whilst not solving the pensions crisis altogether has at least helped to improve the situation by ensuring that millions of more people are now saving for retirement.
Introduced in October 2012, it has been introduced in stages and the full rollout should be completed by February 2018. To date, according to government figures, over 8 million people have now been auto enrolled, which means that the number of employees participating in a workplace pension has increased from 5.4 million in 2012 to 16.2 million in 2016 with a participation rate of 78%.
However, speaking at the IPE 360 conference in London this week, Baroness Ros Altmann who was the pensions minister from 2015 to 2016 said that the entire project was nearly abandoned due to fears by the government about the impact on small employers. She said she had to fight hard to ensure that the project was not pulled.
"We came very close to losing auto-enrolment because there was a lot of fear about forcing small employers to put money into pensions and comply with all the different complex administration issues," she said.
"I'd much rather see a simpler system but at least we've got a system on the road and we can build on it," she added.
Auto enrolment was originally brought in whilst Sir Steve Webb was pensions minister, enjoying a five-year stint in the job. However, since then, the position has been somewhat of a revolving door, with Baroness Ros Altmann, Richard Harrington and now Guy Opperman taking up the role. This has meant that there has not been any real sense of continuity in the role and thanks to the current state of parliament and the Brexit negotiations, we are unlikely to see any dramatic and innovative projects such as auto enrolment again any time in the near future.