Two-thirds (67%) of respondents have no idea when their auto-enrolment staging date is, according to research by accountancy firm HW Fisher and Company.
Its research, which surveyed 750 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), found that nearly a third (32%) of respondents felt they do not know enough about auto-enrolment to be able to gauge its impact on their benefits.
Nearly half (49%) of respondents said they understand little or nothing about the changes they will need to make.
Around a quarter (23%) have taken steps to prepare for auto-enrolment, while 42% said they know what needs to be done, but have yet to start.
More than a third (35%) said they have done nothing because they do not know how to start.
The research also found:
- 30% of respondents are worried about the set-up costs.
- 62% of respondents are worried about the ongoing expense of making employer contributions to staff pensions.
- 47% of respondents said they feared the extra administration involved in managing a pension scheme.
Sailesh Mehta (pictured), partner at HW Fisher and Company, said: “So far, auto-enrolment has only affected Britain’s larger employers, but for the army of small business owners it is just around the corner.
“It’s worrying that so many of them are burying their heads in the sand. Auto-enrolment is coming for everyone, and if you run a business, it’s coming for you.
“From August, employers with more than 60 [pay-as-you-earn] employees will have to comply, and by this time next year thousands of employers with fewer than 30 staff will have to offer their employees a pension.
“The smaller the organisation, the later the staging date, but this is no reason to ignore your obligations. The earlier you start to prepare for auto-enrolment, the easier the transition will be.
“Choosing an auto-enrolment scheme and bedding it in can take several months, and you should get expert financial advice to help you pick the right scheme for your organisation.
“But it’s equally important that you plan for how you will meet the extra cost of making pension contributions for your staff.
“By 2018, employers will have to pay at least 3% of basic pay per employee into a pension scheme.
“But the pension contributions you make will also lower your national insurance bill, so it’s essential that you seek advice in order to budget accurately.”