Cookies on the CII website

By using and browsing the CII website, you consent to cookies being used in accordance with our policy. If you do not consent, you are always free to disable cookies if your browser permits, although doing so may interfere with your use of some of our sites or services. Find out more »

Recently added to my basket
Sorry but there was an error adding this to your basket. Please try adding it again

CII Research: Auto-enrolment and small businesses

The Government's workplace pension reforms represent a significant challenge for small firms, many of whom will have to offer their employees an occupational pension scheme for the first time. This research report identifies how ready small businesses are for the reforms and how financial advice can help. 

Purpose of research

  • Automatic enrolment is a potential game changer for UK pension provision - bringing an estimated 10 million people into long-term saving for the first time.
  • Successful implementation depends on the decisions made by 1.1 million micro and small firms who employ 30% of Britain's workforce. These firms need to make the right calls on what pension scheme they will offer their employees, how they will start-up and administer the scheme, and how they will advise staff members on pension saving.
  • Financial advisers may be able to help in this regard though there has been some debate about whether, and how, firms might seek advice in the run-up to implementation of the reforms.
  • There have only been a few attempts to ask small firms for their views about the reforms and financial advice. This paper helps to fill this gap with up-to-date evidence from a representative sample of Britain's micro and small businesses on awareness and support requirements. 

Headline findings

  • Our results suggest that only a minority of small firms are ready for the reforms with only a small proportion of firms having made plans and the majority unaware of the Government's proposals in this area.
  • A small number of firms have already sought external assistance ahead of auto-enrolment. Nearly half of this group have consulted a financial adviser though this only equates to around 6% of firms in total. The vast majority of these firms were satisfied with the advice that they received.
  • Out of all the firms we surveyed financial advisers were the most popular potential source of assistance on auto-enrolment above accountants and pension providers - consistent with a past DWP survey. 
  • There also appears to be a clear willingness to pay for advice for certain services particularly one-off tailored advice on setting up a pension scheme and ongoing advice on the pension scheme.
  • Those firms with the greatest levels of knowledge about auto-enrolment and the highest levels of turnover in terms of sales were the most likely to consider paid-for advice. 
  • Firms place specialist knowledge and trustworthiness at the top of the list of attributes they look for from advisers.   


  • Small firms will be crucial to successful implementation: The success of auto-enrolment depends on small firms making the right decisions before and after their staging dates.
  • Awareness: Raised awareness is vital to ensuring firms choose the right workplace pension scheme and offer their employees appropriate assistance. Improved communications from government, industry and the regulator will be necessary as staging dates draw nearer.
  • Financial advice is favoured: Small firms are increasingly likely to look to financial advice to help them navigate auto-enrolment as 2015 approaches.
  • Reducing the pensions gap:  Advisers may be able to play a crucial role in reducing the nation's pensions gap by providing appropriate assistance to firms in need.
  • Professional standards: Small firms place knowledge and trust at the top of the list of attributes they look for from advice. Continuing to demonstrate high professional standards will therefore be key to ensuring that intermediaries benefit from improved levels of trust and confidence. 


To view the full report, please see the Document Links box.