Around 400 employers representing 200,000 members using Now: Pensions will be locked out of the auto-enrolment scheme’s systems for at least a month this Christmas while it switches administration providers.
Earlier this year, the provider announced it would be replacing Equiniti Paymaster with JLT Employee Benefits for admin services.
During the ‘blackout period’ between 19 December and 30 January, savers will not be able to access the online ‘member portal’.
For employers the blackout is even longer. They must submit contributions files by 11 December to give Equiniti time to process them before the handover.
The firm says 400 employers who joined the scheme prior to 2014 will be affected.
Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Rob Reid says it is “outrageous” how long the provider’s systems will be down.
He says: “The problem is that Christmas is the time when people look at their tax returns and their pensions statements – it’s outrageous that this is taking at least a month. There’s no reason in this day and age it needs to take this long.
“It’s ironic that at the same time we’re trying to encourage people to save into pensions, they take the system offline.”
Rowley Turton director Scott Gallacher says this kind of switch over is “unprecedented”.
He says: “It’s slightly worrying this has happened early doors in the auto-enrolment process. Potentially six weeks without access to the systems doesn’t seem ideal. I’ve never known something like a six week blackout period.
“Normally you’d run the two systems alongside each other and migrate gradually. Issues could arise with employers such as retailers with lots of staff on overtime – it’s going to be problematic.”
Now: Pensions head of transition relationship management Tracey Treslove says: “In April, we announced the appointment of JLT Employee Benefits as our new pensions administration partner. Since that time we have been working closely with the circa 400 clients that joined us before 2014 to move them across to our new system offering improved functionality and ease of use. We already have around 4,000 clients on the new system.
“During the transition, automatic enrolment clients will still be able to upload files and have communications produced for their employees. Employees in their opt-out period will be able to opt-out as usual. But no other general pension administration activities will be completed until the blackout period ends.
”With any migration of pensions data, a blackout period is standard and absolutely necessary to ensure that a clean and certain set of data is transferred. Naturally it is necessary to both the ceding and receiving administrator to have time to both reconcile and have confidence in the data.
“We shall remain in close contact with those clients who are affected and will be in touch with them again in writing at the end of November and immediately before the blackout period starts.”