Ireland’s New Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill 2024

automatic enrolment retirement savings system bill 2024
By Shannon Power, 14th May 2024

In a pivotal move towards bolstering retirement savings and ensuring financial stability for its populace, the Irish Government has unveiled the Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill 2024. This significant legislative endeavour marks a proactive stride by the Irish government to tackle the challenges posed by an ageing demographic and the imperative for robust retirement provisions in a dynamically shifting economic climate.

Understanding Automatic Enrolment

Central to the bill is the concept of automatic enrolment, which aims to streamline the process of saving for retirement by automatically enrolling eligible employees into workplace pension schemes. This innovative approach recognises the inactivity often associated with retirement planning and seeks to harness it for positive outcomes.

While participation is automatic, individuals maintain the autonomy to opt out if they so choose, ensuring flexibility and choice. There will be an initial six-month mandatory participation period. After which, participants will be allowed to opt out or to suspend their contributions. If the employee suspends contributions, the employer and State contributions will also be suspended.

Key Features of the Bill

  1. Universal Coverage

The legislation proposes universal coverage, extending the benefits of retirement savings to all eligible employees, irrespective of employment status. This bill will enable approximately 800,000 workers aged 23-60, earning more than €20,000 annually, to join a pension scheme for the first time. This inclusivity underscores the government’s commitment to promoting financial inclusivity and bridging gaps in pension provision across diverse segments of the workforce.

  1. Phased Implementation

To facilitate a seamless transition and mitigate disruptions, the Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill outlines a phased implementation strategy and will see the bill be phased out over the next 10 years. This approach allows employers, pension providers, and employees ample time to acclimate to the new framework, fostering a smooth and efficient adoption process.

  1. Employer Contributions

A pivotal aspect of the bill is the stipulation requiring employers to contribute to their employees’ pension schemes. Under the new scheme, employers will match employees’ contributions, supplemented by State funds. Initially, the pension contribution will be set at 1.5% of the employee’s gross earnings, with incremental increases every three years, culminating in a maximum of 6% of the employee’s gross earnings by 2034. These contributions will apply to earnings up to €80,000. Employees earning above €80,000 annually may still contribute, but neither the employer nor the State will match contributions made on income exceeding €80,000.

  1. Default Investment Options

Recognising the significance of cautious investment strategies in shaping retirement outcomes, the bill mandates the provision of default investment options within pension schemes. These options are meticulously crafted to strike a balance between risk and return, catering to the diverse investment preferences and risk tolerances of savers.

  1. Safeguards and Governance

In a bid to safeguard the interests of savers and uphold the integrity of pension schemes, the bill incorporates robust governance mechanisms and regulatory oversight. Clear standards of conduct and accountability are established to ensure the effective operation of the automatic enrolment system, fostering trust and confidence among participants.

Potential Benefits:

The introduction of Ireland’s Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill 2024 holds the promise of several notable benefits:

  • Enhanced Retirement Security: By encouraging regular savings and prudent investment, the bill aims to bolster individuals’ retirement income, mitigating the risk of financial insecurity in later life.
  • Reduced Dependence on State Support: A robust private pension system can alleviate strain on state-funded retirement programs, enabling governments to allocate resources more efficiently and sustainably.
  • Fostering Financial Literacy: Increased engagement with retirement planning and investment decisions has the potential to enhance financial literacy and empowerment among individuals, promoting informed decision-making.
  • Stimulating Economic Growth: By channelling funds into long-term investment vehicles, such as equities and bonds, the automatic enrolment system can catalyse the development of capital markets and stimulate economic expansion.

Concerns for SME’s

In April 2023, SFA Ireland expressed concerns about the Automatic Enrolment Retirement Bill and its potential impact on SMEs. They highlighted that many members might struggle to fulfil these new obligations. The SFA, in a communication to the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, noted that small businesses were not allocating funds for the scheme due to uncertainties regarding its rollout. Additionally, the SFA pointed out several issues with the bill, such as the level of contributions and the cost burden on employees, which could pose significant affordability challenges. They argued that the €80,000 salary threshold for the scheme was excessively high and suggested a greater focus on entry-level savings.

Now that an introduction date and a phased implementation plan have been established, it is hoped that these measures will alleviate the concerns of SMEs and facilitate a smoother introduction of the scheme.

Ireland’s Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill 2024 represents a watershed moment in the country’s quest for enhanced retirement security and financial resilience. As the bill progresses through legislative channels, stakeholders across government, industry, and civil society are poised to shape the trajectory of Ireland’s retirement savings landscape for generations to come.

If you have any questions regarding the new Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System Bill 2024, or Corporate Governance in general, contact the Company Bureau team at +353(0)1 6461625 or fill out our online contact form.

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