“On the Cheap”, a Piece of Cake and the significance of 688.

I love Wikipedia.

Without it I wouldn’t know it was a Freidman number.

or

A US navy nuclear powered submarine.

or

The year King Caedwalla of Wessex abdicated the Throne.

The number in question is 688 and there’s a reason why the facts associated with the number are obscure. It’s an obscure number!

It isn’t as simple as one or as epic as a hundered billion.

It’s not as interesting and useful as Pi or -40 (the equal point in the Fehrenheit and Celsius scales).

It doesn’t have as much cultural significance as 666 or 007.

Nope….the number 688 is a bit, erm, obscure. Nondescript. Some say it’s even boring!

So….why am I writing so much about the number 688.

The reason it has so much significance in ‘my world’ at the moment is that 688 is the number of pages in the Pensions regulator employer duties (and automatic enrolment) detailed guidance documents.

There’s other numbers of course….

11 is the number of separate guidance documents.

19 are the total number of appendices.

And

13 is the number of transcripts attached to the detailed guidance.

So, why is it important to understand the number of pages contained within the detailed auto enrolment guidance I hear you cry! (or wince, or make another alternatively random noise).

Today I had a call from an adviser (who is signed up to the auto enrolment advisory group service).

The adviser in question had just spoken to an employer client.

The employer in question had mentioned that they felt they could “do” employer duties and automatic enrolment themselves. My answer….

There’s no doubt that many employers have the people within their team who can manage and ensure employers comply with their duties.

There’s also no doubt that there are some really useful tools on the pensions regulator website to help employers.

However for employers to assume that employer duties is a “piece of cake” is like assuming that the contestants in “I’m a celebrity” will sit down for their eating challenge and actually get a, erm, piece of cake.

It’s possible…but ultimately it’s wishful thinking.

The reality is that some employers will try to comply with these new obligations ‘on the cheap’.

Some, either by luck, skill or judgement, will comply.

Many directors of firms will want to pass the compliance responsibility on to their payroll person, or HR person, or benefits pension (and in many businesses these 3 roles are down to one individual) and let them manage the responsibility of automatic enrolment and employer duties compliance.

And on many occasions that payroll, HR or benefits person won’t have read the 688 pages of detailed guidance and doesn’t really understand what they need to do to comply.

Due to this I’ve got no doubt that many of the employers who try this ‘on the cheap’ and get it wrong (which many will) are only marginally better protected from the regulators fines than the employers who ignore the obligations entirely.

Ultimately the only thing I can do is focus on helping the accountants, lawyers, advisers and employers who are determined to get it right and understand that expertise shouldn’t be delivered ‘on the cheap’.

However I’m pretty sure that for some employers the number they will ultimately have to focus will be the amount of pounds of fines they’ll have to pay for non-compliance.

I’ve got a feeling that for many, that’ll be a number a lot larger than 688.

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