Workplace Pensions and Auto Enrolment: Caught by the jargon trap?

The pensions industry is notorious for its use of jargon. This is perhaps inevitable in an area that is driven by regulations and laws that demands that language be used with a degree of precision. Technical terms quickly become referred to by a shortened version that is generally understood within the industry, if not beyond it.

I recently helped an insolvency practitioner prepare for auto enrolment when he had been appointed two weeks before the company's staging date. In an impressive display of practical thinking, he contacted the Pensions Regulator and was convinced that he was told that he could defer the staging date for three months. As I suspected the Regulator was referring to postponement of the auto enrolment process, rather than moving the staging date. This subtle distinction was lost on the IP, but had consequences for the timing of certain auto enrolment actions.

The Government is attempting to raise awareness of auto enrolment via television adverts and poster campaigns. Although the larger employers have put processes and schemes in place, smaller employers appear to be playing chicken in this area. This may be because the advertising campaigns refer to 'Workplace Pensions', whereas a lot of industry marketing materials (including my own) refer to the technically-correct 'auto enrolment'. Could this explain why smaller employers are being slow to grasp the nettle?

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