Salary Sacrifice Pensions: Why the scheme matters for SMEs

Article by Chieu Cao, CEO, Mintago

pensioners, pension age2021 has been another hard year for UK businesses. Challenges continue to mount on all sides in a landscape that is as unpredictable as it is unforgiving.

The pandemic has defined the past 20 months; some businesses have struggled to adapt to shifting working conditions, others have been affected by unforeseen complications and delays, and the constant threat of infections has impacted the mental and physical wellbeing of employees.

In the light of such difficult conditions, SMEs have needed to be particularly prudent in their financial management. Positively, the Government offered financial support through its Job Retention furlough program and the Coronavirus Business interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), but the onus remains on decision-makers to navigate these testing times.

Now, with another variant on the rise, the Government re-introducing restrictions, and rising consumer and rental prices necessitating salary increases, employers face fresh concerns. And again, keeping control of a business’ finances is absolutely crucial. To that end, one option to consider in 2022 is the HMRC’s salary sacrifice pension scheme.

Understanding salary sacrifice

As the name suggests, the salary sacrifice pension scheme involves employees agreeing to put up a small part of their salary in exchange for an equivalent pension contribution from their employers. In signing up to this scheme, employers can actually lower their National Insurance (NI) tax bill as these contributions are an allowable expense for organisations and are therefore not eligible for NI. Just by signing up to this program, businesses can save money while paying more into their workers’ pension pots.

This is not only beneficial for the employers, however; while employees nominally agree to sacrifice a portion of their total salary, this is then more than made up for in tax and NI savings, actually resulting in an increase in take-home pay. In short, employees take home more and businesses can save money while they do it.

In a time of such great uncertainty, where fine margins can be the difference between a business surviving and disappearing, this scheme cannot be overlooked.

Spreading the word

Explained in these terms, the salary sacrifice pension scheme sounds like a deal too good to turn down. And yet, a recent YouGov poll of British businesses revealed that only 50% of SMEs are currently signed up to the scheme, compared to a rate of 86% among FTSE 350 companies. What is keeping smaller businesses from joining the scheme?

The most common reason is likely a simple lack of awareness; that same YouGov survey found that 17% of businesses had never even heard of the scheme. The issue here is a lack of information, as the benefits are so great that any decision-maker worth their salt would have to consider it, but evidently many have not.

Lack of awareness is not the only obstacle; 14% of those not using the scheme said that they consider it to be too much of a hassle. The prospect of upending their existing pension structures and instilling a new system is understandably daunting for smaller outfits. But if they do not act,they will likely miss out on significant savings. In reality, the switch to salary sacrifice pension is relatively simple, and there are partners that can assist in the process.

Sacrifice for good

More needs to be done to spread the word about the salary sacrifice scheme – with a 1.25% national insurance tax hike inbound this April, and no end in sight to the climate of uncertainty we inhabit, ignorance is not an excuse. The Government is extending a helping hand through this scheme, but needs to do more to publicise and promote it. Business leaders need to also consider the potential savings on offer and protect themselves and their employees for the future.

As 2022 approaches and businesses of all sizes prepare their financial plans for the new year, business leaders should make the salary sacrifice pension scheme a top priority.

Chieu CaoAbout the author

Chieu Cao is CEO of Mintago. Mintago is an FCA regulated company that helps businesses and employees save money via HMRC’s salary sacrifice pension scheme. Mintago provides a salary sacrifice pension hassle-free implementation program which creates direct savings on monthly (National Insurance) NI payments, with a platform that simplifies managing employee pension contributions. Mintago’s platform also helps find lost pensions quickly and provides financial planning tools, supported by over 1,000 pieces of informative content and tips about various aspects of their personal finances for employees.

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