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Fears grow that pensions auto-enrolment scheme will be delayed again beyond 2024 date

Fears have been raised that the Government’s landmark auto-enrolment pension scheme is set to miss another launch deadline.

The scheme has been beset with delays. It has been under consideration for 15 years and was due to come in early next year. It is now planned to be launched in the second half of next year. But the fact that no state contributions have been budgeted for it in this month’s Budget have created fresh doubts about the latest deadline being met. Chief executive of the Irish Association of Pension Funds, Jerry Moriarty, said it was essential that employers know when the new scheme is due to start. “With auto-enrolment due to start in 2024, it is surprising that no state contributions appear to have been budgeted for. “Employers also need to know whether they need to budget for auto-enrolment in 2024, and knowing the start date is essential for that,” Mr Moriarty said. Asked about the lack of funding in the Budget for the State to pay contributions into the new scheme, the Department of Social Protection said the new auto-enrolment scheme was on track to be launched in the second half of next year. It said provision has been made in the 2024 budget allocation of funds for the department to continue the implementation of auto-enrolment.

But it added: “The administration of state contributions to auto-enrolment participants is under active consideration.”

Under the plans for auto-enrolment, the State would top up contributions made by employees and employers to the scheme.

Workers and their employers will each initially pay 1.5pc of a person’s gross salary into the scheme.

From year four, the will increase to 3pc, rising to 4.5pc in year seven and 6pc from year 10.

For every €3 a worker pays in, their employer would pay the same and the State would top this up by €1.

The proposal is that the scheme would apply to those aged between 23 and 60, earning at least €20,000 per annum.

Between 750,000 to 800,000 people without supplementary pension provision are likely to be signed up by the new scheme in its first phase.

The Department of Social Protection insisted that its officials are continuing to work on implementing the design of the scheme that was agreed and published by Government in March last year.

The work they are carrying out is in line with the general scheme of the Heads of Bill approved by Government in July last year.

“Multiple workstreams are being progressed in parallel, including drafting the necessary legislation that will underpin this new retirement savings system, resourcing the organisational structure, procuring the technical and administrative system to operate it, procuring financial services for the investment of participants’ funds, and communicating this landmark reform to stakeholders and the public,” the department said.

It said the drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage and is expected to be published this session and to begin its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas immediately after that.

The department said it was a highly complex project with an ambitious timeline and the commencement of the system is “on track for the second half of 2024”.

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