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Experts at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing share their verdict on yesterday’s Autumn Statement

Matthew Gregson, Executive Director, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing said, “The government’s reduction of Class 1 employee national insurance contributions (NICs) from 12% to 10% will be welcomed by employees at a time of continued pressure on their personal finances, however, the question is what will be the long-term implications for the funding and provision of State Benefits?

“Similarly, the rise in the National Living Wage, the mandatory rate of hourly pay increasing from £10.42 to £11.44 from April 2024, will benefit a huge number of lower paid employees, however, this move will impact inflation, pushing up the cost of labour, which will surely be passed on the consumers through the cost of products and services.”

“The protection of the pension triple lock is also welcome, considering the low replacement rates for pensioners compared to average earnings. It will also support progress towards the Retirement Living Standards proposed by the PLSA.

 

Emma Hadley, Head of Pensions at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, added:

“The government’s pot for life announcement while initially promising to address the significant issue of unclaimed pensions—considering the average person accrues around 11 pension pots by retirement, leaving nearly £27bn unclaimed in the UK— raises some major concerns over its practical implementation.

“The proposed model allows savers to direct new employer contributions to their existing pots, however, this could pose major logistical challenges for large employers managing multiple savings accounts. Questions also arise about oversight: Who ensures the pension’s quality, fees, and regular reviews for optimal member benefits? The complexity could outweigh the simplicity envisaged for consumers, potentially posing a managerial nightmare for employers. With the initiative currently in consultation, its future remains uncertain, warranting careful observation.”

 

Paul White, Head of Technical, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, said “The increases in Minimum wage and living wage, will impact employers and increase their costs. There is no direct cost to government, but perversely this will lead to an increase in tax income.

“The removal of the Lifetime Allowance – the maximum amount people can take out of registered pension arrangements without triggering tax charges from April 2024 was also confirmed. While the final details of what this looks like will be published in the Finance Act, indications are the LTA will be replaced with equivalent levels for tax free cash calculations.

“The government also increased its funding to get people with health conditions back to work, as well as potentially removing benefit for out of work individuals who fail to find work.  However, we all know that prevention is better than cure and we would like to see the government do more to encourage employers to provide better workplace support for individuals with a health condition or a disability to keep them in work. We look forward to seeing how results of separate consultations on Occupational Health are put into practice.

“For most of the benefits and services we deal with the Autumn statement does not give rise to any significant or immediate obligations on or enhancements to employers. However, the devil is in details on how this government takes forward some of the proposals.”