Need to know
- Employers are under pressure to devise engaging pensions communication strategies.
- At retirement, guidance is lacking.
- Employees must take responsibility for keeping informed about their retirement options.
Larger employers are in the midst of re-enrolling employees into their workplace pension scheme and working hard to devise and develop communication strategies that re-engage staff in their retirement plans.
Engaging staff in pensions is a daunting task for even the most proactive of employers, hence why pensions providers, industry bodies, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and employers themselves have been under increased pressure to think of innovative ways in which to engage employees since the introduction of auto-enrolment in October 2012.
Ken Lawrie, head of reward for Easyjet, which won the award for Best Pensions communications at the Employee Benefits Awards 2016, says: “The root cause of employers’ difficulties [in engaging with employees about pensions] is the amount of change being introduced in such a short period of time.
“[Legislative] changes are difficult to communicate and I don’t feel that there has been a lot of [TPR] guidance available [to help keep employees informed].”
The disappearance of workplace financial advice funded by the commission brokers previously earned on group pensions has only exacerbated the issue. Commission was banned with effect from April 2015 under the retail distribution review (RDR).
Employers have therefore been tasked with condensing legislative changes into manageable chunks of information that employees with any level of pensions nous can understand, and in a multitude of formats to optimise staff access. Targeted messages for different populations of employees are also key.
Lawrie believes that graphics and bite-sized chunks of information are highly effective in engaging employees, rather than text-heavy literature, such as pension scheme annual statements.
And he should know. Around 99.9% of Easyjet’s 6,500 UK staff are enrolled in the employer’s group personal pension (GPP) scheme, despite the fact that 90% of staff work in the sky and are therefore relatively difficult to communicate with. “This is why we focused on digital [strategies] first and then different messages for different groups of employees,” says Lawrie.
Self-help tools available for employers to use to engage employees currently include robo-advice, animated video and pension scheme members’ guides.
But Lawrie believes that support for employees approaching retirement is lacking. For example, there is a stark lack of guidance relating to the logistics surrounding flexible drawdown since the abolition of compulsory annuitisation, which took effect in April 2015.
However, at-retirement guidance is equally challenging for employers to tackle because of the way in which employees can retire at different times. This has been the case since the removal of the default retirement age in 2011.
Employees now have the option to remain in work for longer, which has been welcomed by staff facing a shortfall in their retirement income.
But regardless of how much guidance is available, employees must take responsibility for keeping informed about their retirement options, as well as their auto-enrolment pension scheme, because they have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that they are ready and able to retire comfortably.
“[Ensuring sufficient retirement income levels] can only ever be the responsibility of individual employees and employers try to facilitate that,” says Lawrie.
But he calls for The Pensions Regulator to sanction less change. “The volume of change makes it difficult for employees to keep up,” he says.