The Pension Quality Mark shows employees they are in an industry-leading pension scheme | Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association

The Pension Quality Mark shows employees they are in an industry-leading pension scheme

29 April 2021

During the working life most of us save regularly via our employer’s pension scheme, so that we will have an income in retirement. How do we work out how much we’ll need, whether we’re saving enough, and whether the scheme we are in is a good one? The PLSA’s Retirement Living Standards and Pension Quality Mark can help says Joe Dabrowski.

When a new employee joins an organisation one of the things they should check is how much they and their employer will be contributing to their workplace pension. 

Simple steps which anyone can do in a few minutes and don’t require much understanding of pensions terms or language can very quickly give you an idea about how well the scheme is going to help you achieve a suitable income in retirement.  It can also help identify readily available extra benefits, such as your employer matching any extra contributions – in effect ‘free’ money. 

This is important because although Automatic Enrolment has been a resounding success for helping  more than 10 million new people saving towards their pension, contributions at the minimum rate of 8% of band earnings are unlikely to provide most people with the level of income they expect in retirement. This is one of reasons the PLSA has campaigned for many years for minimum pension contributions to be increased to 12%, with half of the contribution coming from the employer. 

It is also why, in 2019,  the PLSA also launched its Retirement Living Standards, currently used by over 14 million savers,  to help people picture their future retirement  at three different annual income levels – minimum (10k), moderate (20k) and comfortable (30k). While the vast majority of people will achieve a minimum level of retirement income – mainly via the State Pension – to achieve a better standard of living in retirement requires a good workplace pension.

That’s, in part, where the industry-standard Pension Quality Mark (PQM) comes to the fore.

PQM is an accreditation for workplace DC pension schemes that was developed back in 2009 by the PLSA. 

The PQM Standards recognise employers – such as BMW, Heineken, Manchester United, Nationwide and UK Power Networks – that are committed to supporting employees to save for retirement by providing pension contributions above the minimum automatic enrolment contributions required by regulation.

To meet the PQM Standards, an employer must commit to offer all employees a contribution of 12% (with at least 6% from the employer). In addition, schemes must be well-run, understand their members and act in the best interests of those members. This includes choosing a suitable default investment strategy, appropriate communications, delivering value for money and listening to member feedback. Employers offering 15% contributions can also qualify for a PQM Plus accreditation.

The contribution threshold also reflects research from the PLSA’s 2018 Hitting the Target report that a 12% contribution is necessary to reach a good standard of living in retirement.

It is also above the 11.2% annual contributions recently identified by the Resolution Foundation as the amount someone in their 20s – on average earnings of £25,000 per-year – needs to save into their workplace scheme.

Around 125 pension schemes currently hold either PQM or PQM Plus, with over 650,000 employees actively saving in these schemes. Pension schemes which hold PQM are from a wide range of sectors, including financial services, charities, retail, pharmaceuticals and engineering. 

The best and most responsible employers recognise that financially secure employees are happy employees. The Pension Quality Mark highlights those schemes that are really pushing to boost contributions and help savers achieve a good level of income in retirement and encourages others to join them.

Holders of the PQM tell us it is a great way to demonstrate excellence to prospective employees and new joiners and that the quality of the workplace scheme stands up to external benchmarking and in line with the changing landscape.

To find out more about how you can apply for the accreditation and see a full list of PQM holders, visit the PQM website.

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