IRIS SME Division CEO gives his top tips on auto enrolment

By Sam Thomas | 7th April 2016 | 18 min read

During Mark’s time at IRIS, he’s helped oversee businesses of all sizes prepare for auto enrolment and was instrumental in the development of the IRIS AE Suite™, the industry’s most comprehensive auto enrolment software package.

We sat down for a chat with Mark to get his thoughts on auto enrolment, why it’s so important for small businesses to be aware of the legislation, and how IRIS can help.

Q1. Why do you think it is so important for smaller businesses to be aware of auto enrolment?

A: “Put simply, it’s the law, you have to comply. Every single company gets a staging date and that means that anybody who employs someone needs to comply with the law from their staging date as that’s the date when the law applies to them.”

Q2. How is it more difficult for a smaller business to prepare and make the changes to comply, compared to a larger business?

A: “I think the big difference is that a small company won’t have a dedicated HR Department, and they won’t have a dedicated person. The larger companies could have someone who can spend time on payroll and learn the changes without it affecting the business, obviously in a smaller business that can’t be the case. So I think that’s the biggest difference, in a smaller company it’s typically going to be the owner, or perhaps someone who’s responsible for finance or admin and they’re going to have to manage auto enrolment in parallel with their job.”

Q3. How can IRIS help businesses who are close to their staging date and are yet to prepare for auto enrolment?

A: “Auto enrolment is quite complicated and so the number one thing I’d recommend to any business big or small is to get trained properly. Training is really critical, and because of this we’ve been running training courses on auto enrolment now for four years, we’ve trained 10,369 individuals in areas such as auto enrolment. I’m sure this makes us the largest provider of auto enrolment training in the country, or certainly one of the largest, but importantly it’s the one thing that people need to get trained up with which is something we can help with.

"As well as training, we also offer our IRIS Managed Payroll Service for businesses who may look at auto enrolment and want to avoid the hassle of managing it every pay period. The IRIS Managed Payroll Service allows businesses to outsource their entire payroll operation over to us, including auto enrolment, and have us manage all aspects with a fully BACS-accredited and experienced service.”

Q4. How can auto enrolment be overall beneficial to businesses?

A: “As mentioned, they really do need to comply with the law. But apart from this there are two reasons; number one, we know that people aren’t saving enough for retirement and so businesses who are starting to help their employees save via auto enrolment are helping their employees, their company and they’re helping the country, so I’d say that’s the first thing. Also, if people have more money in retirement then it helps businesses simply because people have more money to spend.

"The second area which is commonly overlooked by businesses is that by offering a good workplace pension scheme, it can actually bolster the total benefits package. It’s not only about the salary that people get or perhaps any bonuses, pension contributions are a bit part of a package and in a way they become a better employer. It could be used to attract people or it could be used to retain people, but I think it’s just a better all-round thing.”

Q5. When you initially had the idea for the IRIS AE Suite™, what were you hoping the software would go on to achieve?

A: “For us, it was actually working with our customers to understand what they wanted. It became clear that this was a very complicated piece of legislation and customers really wanted their problems solved within their payroll software. So from the outset it became evident really quickly that we wanted to build total automation; and probably the best analogy is the payroll package.

"If you think about payroll today, it offers virtually total automation, you put in all of the figures and the software runs the calculations. What we wanted to do with the IRIS AE Suite™ and what we achieved is really that same process; users set up all of the inputs and data, press the button and it literally does everything for you completely automatically.”

Q6. What benefits does the IRIS AE Suite™ bring to a business?

A: “What we wanted to achieve was total automation, with the IRIS AE Suite™ you answer a few questions, such as staging date, postponement, and contribution levels, and when you’ve set these once you can forget about them. After you’ve set it up, we like to think about it as a ‘zero additional effort’ approach, so as you’re running your payroll and you press the ‘Run Payroll’ button, we do all of the auto enrolment calculations for you as you’re running your payroll.

"The great thing is that you can’t forget it, and you also know that you’re compliant every payroll run. The huge benefit for businesses is that you can do your auto enrolment commitments with zero additional time or people.”

Q7. What advice would you give a smaller business regarding auto enrolment?

A: “I’d say a number of things. Number one, absolutely get trained. This is complicated legislation and we’ve tried to make it easy for you to get trained with a choice of online or venue-based seminars. This is always the first thing I advise anyone to do.

"The second thing which is just as important as training is start early. For our customers who have started early it’s been straightforward, and for the few who’ve left it late it’s been really painful, just with most things in life you should start early. The third thing is that once you’ve got the training and you’ve started preparations early is that you will need payroll software. We don’t think anyone is planning to do it manually anymore and so you will need software and so make sure you look at what package you want. Certainly look at the IRIS AE Suite™ because you’re going to need something to automate this for you.

"Alternatively, look at the IRIS Managed Payroll Service if you’d like to take away the hassle and stress of auto enrolment.”

The next steps

At IRIS, we're here to help you and your business; you can find out more about the products, services and training Mark has discussed using the buttons below.

As Mark mentions, the IRIS AE Suite can completely change the way you manage auto enrolment, the software has been developed in conjuction with pension providers, The Pensions Regulator, and through customer feedback. The IRIS AE Suite is the most comprehensive piece of auto enrolment software available today.

Show me more about the IRIS AE Suite

Alternatively, you can outsource your payroll operation to us if you feel auto enrolment is something you'd rather avoid managing yourself. The IRIS Managed Payroll Service is a fully BACS and RTI-accredited service, which allows you to pass over the hassle and time needed to manage and run your payroll operation yourself.

Show me more about the IRIS Managed Payroll Service

Whether you choose the IRIS AE Suite or the IRIS Managed Payroll Service, training really is critical. By understanding the legislation, you're giving yourself a better chance to prepare properly and help ensure that you have everything needed as you approach your staging date. We run training both online and on-site, on times, dates and locations to suit you.

Show me IRIS auto enrolment training