The steel fabrication company that she works for employs 15 staff on variable contracts with a range of hourly rates. Established in 1990, the firm is based in Surrey, but is increasingly acquiring customers in London as it grows.
“Our needs are quite quirky, because we pay fortnightly in arrears, and employees don’t have set salaries but different hourly rates depending on when the work was carried out,” she explained.
“In the very beginning of the process, there seemed to be so much information out there, much of it very confusing, and I didn’t feel at all confident in the process, despite reading up on The Pensions Regulator website. I’m the sole person responsible for accounts here, and it’s difficult when you don’t have a big team”
“I was worried about how difficult this would make calculating pension contributions, so auto-enrolment seemed quite daunting when I first started looking into it. But our accountants suggested that we try a new system, and we ended up switching from our old one to a different offering, which was a brilliant decision.”
The new software has allowed her to automate the process of auto-enrolling employees, who are now registered into the workplace pension scheme set up by the government. Free for employers to join, and created specifically for auto-enrolment, Petters is of the belief that it was the ideal offering for a small business like STG Fabrications.
“Our new software has made it really easy for us to communicate the changes to employees, because workers receive details of exactly how much they’re contributing and when – I haven’t had to do any calculations. The service is also very good if you have a query, although I haven’t really needed to contact them as it’s been so straightforward,” she said.
Postponing the implementation of auto-enrolment, from 1 March to the beginning of April 2016, meant it coincided with the new tax year and therefore made the process simpler.
Petters continued: “It’s actually been so easy – I really didn’t need to be as scared about it as I was.”
For Petters, getting geared up for auto-enrolment has also delivered an unexpected bonus, because the new software makes other aspects of her job easier too. “Tax code changes are easier in new system, and generating payslips is much easier,” she said.
At the same time, providing staff with self-service accounts has helped engage employees in the process. “We fully expected about half of our staff to opt out, certainly the younger ones, but no one has – and I think that is largely down to the fact they can login and see that we’re contributing too and that their pot is growing,” said Petters.
As for the cost of compliance, Petters admitted that it is hard for a small company to absorb. But her move to new payroll software has lessened the blow somewhat, as it has resulted in cost savings to the business. “Overall, taking into account both costs and time, I would say the process has been pretty painless.”
Engaging with staff to pick an auto-enrolment direction was the strategy for this boss.