Wednesday 16 October 2019

New setback feared for auto-enrol pension plan

Jerry Moriarty, chief executive of the IAPF
Jerry Moriarty, chief executive of the IAPF
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Fresh doubts have emerged about the commitment of the Government to introduce a pension scheme for almost one million private sector workers.

Six out of 10 private sector workers have no private or occupational pension.

The Government has committed to have an auto-enrolment pension system in place from 2022 for these workers.

But no money was allocated in Budget 2020 to set up a key piece of infrastructure to deliver auto-enrolment.

Plans for an auto-enrolment pension scheme have been talked about for 15 years.

Last year, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty set out a number of deadlines to ensure the new mandatory scheme was in place from 2022.

But pension consultant Mercer pointed out in post-Budget comments: "While conscious of the challenges in setting a Budget in the midst of Brexit uncertainty, it was disappointing that private pension provision did not directly feature.

"The Government has set out plans to introduce auto-enrolment by 2022, a development which has the capability to transform the Irish pensions landscape.

"However, there was no mention of capital spending to set up the Central Processing Agency, which is a key element in its plans."

This agency would manage the pension plans of those enrolled into the auto-enrolment scheme, and select the level of risk they wish to accept.

Ms Doherty published a Pensions Roadmap document last year, setting out deadlines to be met to put the new pension plans in place.

According to the document, 36 actions in the roadmap were due to have been completed by now, but only eight of those have been implemented.

The design of the new auto-enrolment pension was supposed to have been completed in the first three months of this year.

Jerry Moriarty of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, which represents pension savers, said the new scheme was unlikely to be launched in the next three years, as initially planned.

He said: "It is very difficult to see how the deadline could be met at this stage. The design was due to be finalised in the first quarter of this year and it is still unclear when that will happen."

Mr Moriarty said Ms Doherty's Department of Social Protection had committed to developing and bringing forward legislation for auto-enrolment by the first quarter of next year.

"It is hard to see how it can happen with no indication of the final design," he said.

The association has called for the Government to appoint a pensions minister, as it is fearful that pension reform has fallen off the agenda.

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