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Will triple lock state pensions survive the current economic crisis?

Posted on: 3rd Aug 2020 by: CamOuse Financial Management Limited

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a crippling blow to the British economy. The latest predictions from the Office for Budget Responsibility say that the country is on track to see the largest economic decline for 300 years, with output falling by at least 10% over 2020.

While the long term economic outlook is uncertain, the various economic support measures announced by the government will go some way to protecting it. For instance, the job retention scheme, where the government paid the wages of 6.3 million people, should prevent some of the fallout that would be caused by large scale mass unemployment.

However, all this needs to be paid for. For the first time in 50 years, government debt exceeds the size of the economy. Income from tax, National Insurance and VAT has plummeted while government spending has soared.

All this means that the state pensions triple lock could again come under the microscope. Under the triple lock system, state pension payments rise by the higher of inflation, wages or 2.5% each year. This policy has been a central part of the government’s commitment to pensioners over the last ten years.

Recently, experts have been increasingly vocal in their opinion that the triple lock will have to be abandoned in order to pay for the fallout of the lockdown. The Social Market Foundation think tank advised the government to scrap the triple lock system, calling for a double lock system where the state pension would rise in line with either average earnings or inflation. The think tank estimates that this would contribute to £20bn worth of savings over the next five years.

An added concern is that following this year’s fall in average earnings – predicted to be 7.3% – average  earnings could then soar next year in the event of a sharp recovery. One estimate places this figure at over 18%. This figure would form the basis of the earnings element of the triple lock system for 2021 and 2022, meaning that state pensions could rise by over 21% in just two years. 

This kind of increase would be unsustainable, especially given the severe hardship that millions of workers will face over the next few years.

However, the triple lock pension scheme was a key part of Johnson’s manifesto, a commitment he reaffirmed in parliament back in May.

What’s more, there are some models of the country’s economic recovery which show a more restrained recovery than the one mentioned above. 

Under the Office for Budget Responsibility’s latest prediction for a “moderate” recovery, the triple lock would only see earnings rise by 5% next year, meaning that state pensions would also rise by 5%. This is a far more prudent figure than 18%, meaning Johnson could still find traction to stick with his triple lock pledge.

Tags: Pensions,


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CamOuse Financial Management is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

None of the information contained in this website should be considered as personal recommendation and is for information only. Should you wish to make a financial transaction we recommend that you take personal financial advice after a thorough review of your personal and financial circumstances.

The information contained within the website is subject to the UK regulatory regime and is therefore primarily targets at customers in the UK.

Registered address: Unit 111, Lancaster Way Business Park, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB6 3NX

Registered in England and Wales. Registered No: 5662116.

Peninsula: Accredited Standard

Understanding the true cost to your business

Pension arrangements must be available for all employees. There are three categories of employee:

Eligible

Aged between 22 and State Pension Age (SPA) with qualifying earnings over the Auto Enrolment earnings trigger

Non-eligible

Aged between 16 – 74 with qualifying earnings between lower threshold and the Auto Enrolment earnings trigger
 
Aged between 16 -21 or SPA – 74 with qualifying earnings over Auto Enrolment earnings threshold

Entitled

Aged between 16 -74 with earnings below the qualifying earnings lower threshold

Important Notes

  1. Eligible jobholders must be auto-enrolled
  2. Non-eligible jobholders are allowed to be auto-enrolled if they want to
  3. Entitled workers are entitled to join a pension scheme, but the employer doesn't have to contribute

Qualifying Earnings lower threshold

£5,772

Qualifying Earnings upper threshold

£41,865

Automatic Enrolment earnings trigger

£10,000

Minimum contribution level options:

8% of Qualifying Earnings of which

3% is employer's (starting at 1%)

9% of Basic Salary of which

4% is employer's (starting at 2%)

8% of Basic Salary of which

3% is employer's (starting at 1%)

(Where basic salary is at least 85% of total earnings)

7% of gross earnings of which

3% is employer's (starting at 1%)

Pay reference period

Essentially the frequency that the jobholder is paid e.g. monthly, weekly etc. but with reference to the tax month, week etc. therefore it may not be the same as the payroll period.

Deduction and payment of contributions

It is the employer who is responsible to calculate, deduct and pay all contributions to the AE scheme. NOTE – the first and last contributions are likely to be for less than a full pay reference period and should be adjusted accordingly.

Payroll services

It can be seen that it is very important that the payroll system synchronises with the AE scheme otherwise the employer will not be carrying out all requirements and then penalties will be incurred.

Staging date

Based on the employer’s payroll size as at 1 April 2012 and can be found at www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/employers using your PAYE reference. The Qualifying Workplace Pension Scheme must be registered with The Pensions Regulator within 4 months of the staging date.

Compliance and communication

Postponement

Auto-Enrolment can be postponed for up to 3 months:

  • For current eligible employees
  • For workers that meet the criteria in the future for the first time e.g. avoid joining temporary or lower paid workers

Opt-Outs

All eligible employees must be auto-enrolled, but can, with the correct notification, opt-out within one month of joining the scheme and be treated as never having joined. They can opt back in and will automatically be auto-enrolled every 3 years in any case!

Communication

There is a wide range of information that must be provided to all employees at certain times, such as:

  • The date auto-enrolment took place for eligible jobholders
  • That non-eligible jobholders have the statutory right to opt in
  • Entitled workers have the right to request the employer to enrol them into a pension scheme

Salary sacrifice

Contributions can be paid by effectively reducing salary, which saves on NI contributions, but employee must choose to do this – they cannot be forced, so a contractual variation will need to be implemented.

Default investment fund

Investment Options

All eligible employees will be automatically invested into a default investment fund, which is a balanced risk fund that is “life styled” to account for the employees approach to retirement. They also have the option to invest in a wide range of funds of their choosing.