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Malcolm Streatfield: Be ahead of the game, not behind it

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Specifically aimed at “the employers of Middle Britain, for which market capacity may otherwise be an issue,” the scheme “makes it easy for employers to meet their legal obligations within a governance structure focused on good member outcomes and value for money.”

Real Business took the opportunity to talk to CEO Malcolm Streatfield about how SME employers are doing so far and what they should be focussing on.

Although most employees are now aware of auto-enrolment requirements, partly due to government TV adverts staring celebrities such as Karen Brady and Theo Paphitis saying “I’m in”, many SMEs “are just short on detail.”

Streatfield suggests that adverts on tube’s are not the best way to get such a complex matter across. With this in mind Streatfield explains that “for as long as you’re in business, you’re going to be contributing an ever increasing amount into the pension scheme. So you really should spend time upfront to do your research and make sure your pension scheme is fit for purpose, that it’s set up properly and that you fully understand how it works and operates.”

“Being asked today whether SMEs will struggle to reach their staging dates, I think they definitely will. They simply haven’t got the infrastructure to deal with it,” he suggests.

“However, by the time they need to clear the final hurdle, they would have seen their larger counter-parties auto-enrol and learned from it, and I would imagine it to be a topic of conversation over a pint of beer in a pub. So I’m reasonably confident that SMEs will be perfectly fine.”

But to avoid racking up fines up to a potential £10,000 per day Streatfield does insist that SMEs take action now!

“Firms have got to engage early. In fact, for small businesses increasingly competing in a labour market, auto-enrolment will give them a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff. If an employee had a choice between firm A who has already enrolled their staff and company B who says their staging date is in a year’s time so they’ll wait, which do you think would look more appealing? It’s a staff benefit and it shows you’re a caring employer at the same time.

And now that the recession has lifted, companies need to do all they can to keep their staff. If you don’t treat them right, they’ll go somewhere else.

Furthermore, if you join the herd when everyone is approaching their deadline, that’s when mistakes are likely to be made because you’re in a queue and rushing things. So why not be an early adopter?”

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