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Multi-jobbers missing out on millions in pension contributions

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05/05/2021
People who hold more than one job are at risk of a poorer retirement due to missing out on employer pension contributions.

That’s the conclusion of Scottish Widows, which has called for the government to ditch the thresholds that currently dictate who qualifies for the automatic enrolment workplace pension scheme.

The workplace pension conundrum

Auto-enrolment was introduced in order to encourage people to save more in their pensions during their working years, due to concerns that we aren’t putting enough money aside.

Under the scheme, employers are required to open a pension on their employees’ behalf, and then contribute to that pension, though employees are entitled to opt out.

Crucially though, employees need to earn at least £10,000 a year to qualify for the scheme, and that’s where the issue faced by multi-jobbers becomes clear. There are inevitably some workers who earn at least that much across their various employments, but because they do not earn at least £10,000 from one single employer, they are not enrolled in a workplace pension and so miss out on those valuable employer contributions.

The study from Scottish Widows found that almost half (49%) of those who are employed in more than one job but are earning less than the threshold are not enrolled in their company pension. That’s in contrast to less than a quarter (23%) of all employees who are not enrolled.

Previous research has highlighted that millions are currently excluded from the workplace pension scheme, while more than 100,000 single mothers have been locked out during the pandemic.

Can I get a workplace pension?

Importantly, while you need to earn £10,000 in order to qualify for automatic enrolment, so long as you earn above £6,240 you can opt into your company’s pension, with your employer legally required to contribute too at a rate of 3% of your salary. Even if you earn less than this you can opt into the pension, though the employer isn’t compelled to contribute.

However, this doesn’t seem to be particularly well known. Scottish Widows found that almost half (48%) of those it spoke to did not know that those earning between these bands could opt in and that bosses had to contribute, while two in five thought that all workers were automatically enrolled, irrespective of what they earn.

Worryingly, the study found that around one in 20 people who have multiple jobs and at least one paying under the £10,000 threshold have been refused entry into the company pension by their bosses.  

Ditch the threshold

Pete Glancy, retirement expert at Scottish Widows, said that auto enrolment had been a “game changer” for boosting the nation’s pension pots, those who have multiple jobs are losing out significantly compared to peers with a single job.

He continued: “This was an issue that we first highlighted in 2018 based on research conducted at that time, and our latest research suggests that the problem is not going away. A shift towards more multi-jobbers will reverse some of the gains made by auto-enrolment, so the argument to remove the earnings threshold is getting stronger and should be a top priority for the next evolution of the scheme.”

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