Pension freedoms: do employers care?

Written by: Kate Upcraft

You’d have to have been living under a stone in the last couple of weeks not to be aware that pensions have had a major overhaul since 6 April 2015. Well they have if you’re over 55, with a  money purchase (also called defined contribution) pension pot and the provider looking after that pot is geared up to offer the Chancellor’s new options. Suddenly the old mantra of ‘DB* good DC bad’ doesn’t hold good any more as savers flock to transfer money of out ‘jam tomorrow’ final salary pensions schemes in favour of the option to withdraw money now.

Whilst the Treasury are very keen for you to do that so they get the income tax on the withdrawal as it will be part of taxed income for the year, and then for you to buy things with that cash and also pay VAT; DWP are worried that a generation of spendthrift 50 somethings will be destitute in their old age. Of course there will be a half-way house. Some folk will live for today but the majority will be more circumspect and may eschew the new freedoms for the certainty of a fixed income from an annuity or pension scheme as they have always been able to.

So is this a personal matter or do employers have a role to play? They’ll probably get asked ‘what should I do?’ and of course employers themselves cannot provide employees with financial advice as it is regulated, but they can point them to Pension Wise. Pension Wise is the new free, impartial guidance service that is being delivered through Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and the Pension Advisory Service. But this is very firmly guidance, not advice. Advice being regulated and normally needing to be paid for, so the best Pension Wise can do is signpost opts and suggest pad for advice.

One question employers may well get asked is ‘can I transfer some monies out of my final salary scheme to a money purchase scheme so I can access it today?’ The government are very keen that pension scheme members take an informed view of the opportunities and risks that this choice entails and to this end require that pension schemes insist on advice being taken before a scheme transfer is initiated. To that end a new tax exemption was introduced in the Budget this March if employers want to pay for this advice on behalf of employees.

But finally what might this mean behaviourally?  If employees become aware that pension savings can be accessed from age 55 they might be further encouraged to remain in auto enrolment schemes and even contribute more to them given the tax efficiency of doing so.          

*DB = defined benefit or final salary pension  

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Distribution & wholesale

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Delta Distribution

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Engaging employees – how and why?

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Employee engagement can be interpreted a number of ways. For employees it's an expectation that the organisation will keep them motivated, content and productive in their role. For employers, it's utilising different ways of working and technological advancements to ensure high productivity, low attrition and less conflict. Finally, for the technology world it's an opportunity to amplify the efforts of HR in keeping employees effective, streamlining recruitment, reward, social collaboration and feedback processes.

Essentially, truly engaged employees expect trust, commitment and a two-way agreement between themselves and their employer. Their role in engagement should not be underestimated, and an organisation that views engagement as a 'tickbox' of HR is ignoring a widespread issue. The savvy Gen-Y / Z workforce don't respond well to rigid, purely technological processes. They demand interaction, feedback and a blend of work and social processes. The subjectiveness of engagement means that technology cannot own this process entirely, and the role of managers and HR is equally important.

What's technology's role then? Whilst the concept and control of employee engagement may sit with managers and the HR division, technology as an enabler is a hard mechanism to ignore. Onboarding, performance management, collaboration tools and a seamless recruitment process are just some of the elements that can be implemented and optimised to align with engagement objectives.  HR solutions are evolving, and are no longer seen as databases of people information. An intuitive HR solution which offers engagement functionality and smart analytics is a wise investment, and will pay dividends.  

 

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Management reporting

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Access PeoplePlanner Mobile

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Onboarding – the new induction

Written by: Daniel Chapman

One of the greatest mistakes an employer can make is to underestimate the power of the new wave of talent in today's marketplace. Recruitment is no longer about choosing the best candidate and expecting them to excitedly count down the days until they join your organisation. Businesses are recognising that cementing an employee / employer relationship before day one, and up to the point of effectiveness, is crucial in order to win the war on talent.

Why is this so important now? The new generations of tech-savvy, information hungry talent are well aware of their worth, and aren't scared to ask for what they want. High expectations and the need for instant gratification have bolstered confidence and employees are keeping their options open. The power of recruitment has shifted in favour of the job seekers and employers need to recognise and respond, or else risk losing to the competition.

Where does it currently stand? It's entirely possible (and likely) that onboarding is viewed from the outside in as a process for large organisations, to ensure they can keep track of new recruits and give them early access to policies etc. This perception needs to change. Onboarding is about early engagement, from offer acceptance into the early stages of employment, and that's an issue regardless of company size. Early attrition is an expensive and unpredictable threat within HR management, but one which will only increase along with employee expectations about employment.

So disregarding different perceptions, what is onboarding all about? The crux is really aligning the business need with the employee expectation as both are equally important and an error in judgement can be fatal to the relationship. This alignment is the first step of a sustained, productive and long-term engagement between employer and employee.

How can HR technology support and enable the process? The answer is 'in a number of ways'. Far more than a database of people information, a good HR solution can provide an onboarding portal for documentation, feedback and other elements. It can provide a two-way communication for employee and employer, from the moment the offer is accepted. It can provide information about social activities and mentoring programmes. Finally, it can provide the socialisation and instant gratification which has been identified as the key to early engagement.

 

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Management reporting

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Formulation

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Top floor to shop floor and the right attitude to planning and scheduling

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Planning and scheduling systems embedded in businesses have traditionally been manual processes, limited to production, and hard to interrogate, challenge or alter. Advanced planning and scheduling can act effectively in the modern, asset-lean, dynamic environment - not only to improve production efficiency but also to have a major impact on the effectiveness of the whole firm and its associated supply chains.

It may seem odd to describe typical planning and scheduling activities as an 'afterthought', but in many businesses it appears to be so. The reasons are not hard to find. Historically, many industries have 'enjoyed' spare or excess capacity (whether that capacity is strictly fit for purpose is perhaps another question). Additionally, many manufacturing lines were run on strict economic batch quantity criteria, and their sole purpose was to replenish buffer stocks somewhere down the supply chain. In such a scenario, planning and scheduling appears not to be much of a big deal - readily performed, manually with little magnetic blocks on a Gantt chart, or some computerised equivalent - and if problems appear, just increase the size of the buffer.

That may sound like satire, but that sort of attitude is still all too prevalent. Yet the world has changed, in a number of ways. Access' recent whitepaper, ' Top floor to shop floor' explores the negatives of this attitude and the positive outcomes of having the right system implemented to aid planning and scheduling optimisation.

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Access Office integration

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Service & contract management

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Access Into... Finance Control

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Join Access Into Finance Control, our free educational seminar, for professionals in not-for-profit organisations. The seminar starts at 09.30am and finishes at 12.30pm, on Tuesday 24 March at the Institute of Civil Engineers, (1 Great George Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA). The whole morning is dedicated to those who are looking to get the most out of their Finance Systems.

Speakers include:
Bruce Walsh - Group Financial Controller, the Institute of Civil Engineers

The Secrets of Document Management...
As an internationally recognised professional body, the ICE needs to reach strategic goals, while delivering value for money and displaying best practice. Bruce will be sharing the secrets of how the right procurement and document management systems help ICE to meet these requirements.

Roberto Zambelli - Finance change project manager, BBC Media Action
Roberto has a wealth of domestic and international experience encompassing financial and operational audits, due diligence, fraud prevention and more.

Business Mapping - Making the Right Approach...
Roberto has a wealth of domestic and international experience encompassing financial and operational audits, due diligence, fraud prevention and more. He will be talking about how the right approach to business process mapping can make your systems run much more smoothly.

If you're looking at, or currently planning an finance strategy to cut costs and drive efficiencies, join us for this free educational seminar and optimise what's already in front of you.

Register here to join us, or find us on Twitter to join the conversation, #AccessInto and your question to @AccessNFP

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Stock Forecasting

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Retail

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Efficiencies require modern management

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Despite the economy returning to its strongest since 2007 many businesses are still left with the feeling they could be doing better. Inefficiencies left by previous management are stifling growth, and now is the time to address them. To correct this, more businesses are looking out to the horizon, experiencing results and growth with modern management solutions.

The solution that these businesses are adopting are simple: remove the processes that are causing them the most pain and consolidating information so that there is one centralised hub for business-wide data, enabling the reduction of manual administration, accurate data and more room for collaboration.

It is essential for greater visibility of information so that decision makers can remain informed with detailed reports, insights and trends that allow for agility in management control. The previously inefficient processes are now automated, reporting and analysis can now be viewed accurately and with confidence.

These improvements to business processes enable consistency organisation-wide, from sales and marketing to project management. These areas can all be underpinned with business intelligence to access insights in a way best suited to the end user allowing for greater confidence in business management, through trends and understanding the threats and opportunities.

It will be these systems that enable businesses to integrate crucial processes with solutions that consolidate and automate information, eliminating inefficiencies and driving intelligent business management.

Access' recent whitepaper 'Beyond the Horizon' focuses on the inefficiencies that prevent companies from converting growth in size into growth in profit. It also looks at solutions which enable companies to overcome these challenges, allowing them to be nimble and ready for growth.

 

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Repeat billing

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System-wide benefits

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Connecting your supply chain

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Modern supply chains are much more sophisticated than even those a decade ago, the ability to integrate and synchronise crucial areas enable not just greater visibility and control but greater efficiencies. Therefore it is required that businesses have the right processes and systems in place to deliver as a modern, technical supply chain should.

This enables each link of the chain to provide a certain level of intelligence to react to changes, from strengths or weakness, opportunities or risks. One in five finance managers experience problems with holding more stock than necessary. Having a solution that allows less stock to be held doesn't increase risk. This may be simply achieved by integrated intelligence and supply chain management to predict demand and increase supply based on real-time data.

There is a lack of visibility, including no clear distribution costs that is worrying 20% of finance managers. Access' recent whitepaper,'Mind the Gap: Connecting your supply chain'  offers insight into these key areas and how they can benefit from modernisation and integration of supply chain solutions.

This is becoming more and more apparent as 40% of finance professionals still rely on manual processes and spreadsheets, the restrictive processes that don't offer the management visibility to make intelligent or informed decisions based on real-time data.

This is further underpinned with nearly one in three supply chain managers complaining of a lack of integration between financial systems, suppliers and distribution partners.

To optimise your supply chain efficiency; aggregate and report the overall use of physical and financial resource across a company over an extended period of time; link various operational systems to business intelligence systems to identify, discover and analyse individual product levels and provide real-time data.

All of the above is detailed, in Access' 'Mind the Gap: Connecting supply chain' whitepaper, including real examples of return on investment from the double award winner, 2014 Manufacturer of the Year.

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Extending your Access SupplyChain

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Retail

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Multiple income tax code fiasco

Written by: Daniel Chapman

There were a couple of interesting articles in the Daily Telegraph on 17thJanuary, ' Millions with multiple incomes at risk of shock tax bills' and ' Six HMRC offices chased me for £5000 I didn't owe' about the accuracy of employee tax codes for those with multiple income sources. Some horror stories are quoted about tax demands years after the tax year concerned, that indicate that full personal allowances were given to more than one income source. Of course the marked increase in the personal allowance from £6,475 in 2010/11 to £10,000 this year means errors of this sort lead to significant underpayments.

The articles raise some interesting questions: 

  • Given that all HMRC staff have been able to see all an individual's income sources on one record since the National Insurance and PAYE Service (NPS) went live in 2009, how is it possible for there to be two primary income sources to which the full personal allowance is allocated?
  • Furthermore since April 2013 HMRC have been able to see what code is being used by any PAYE scheme every time that an employee is paid. If a code is being operated that is not as issued by them they ought to have designed RTI to flag that in case the code issued has gone astray on its route to the employer. They also ought to perform a routine regularly to assess if the codes in use for one employee indicate two primary income sources and therefore an under deduction of tax
  • Why have HMRC refused to allow extra statutory concession (ESC) A19 in some of the cases quoted. The ESC is clear that HMRC should act upon information sent to them and in any case by 12 months after the end of the tax year, after which the taxpayer should rightfully expect their affairs to be settled unless a case of fraud or deliberate error is detected. As HMRC have income and tax code data every pay day how can they argue that they are unaware of the code in use? 

Their argument it is that it is the taxpayer's responsibility to check that their code is correct, true but how many individuals understand enough about the tax system to be able to do that without professional help?  They also say in the Telegraph that 'Over 98 per cent of tax codes' are accurate but how do they know? So on the basis that we know there are 30m individual taxpayers (ONS statistics) that's 600,000 incorrect codes. In fact several million people will have more than one income including pensioners with multiple pension and those with several income so the potential for incorrect codes, even based on HMRC's estimate, is huge. 

Those of us who operate payrolls daily have experienced a marked drop in the accuracy of codes over recent years. Let's hope that RTI really does deliver code accuracy improvement for taxpayers one day, after all we've paid for it!        

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Transport & haulage

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Sales order processing & Credit control

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Visibility is everything in a growing business

Written by: Daniel Chapman

With brighter skies on the horizon, businesses need to put themselves in a position to grasp new opportunities when they arise. It is important that when companies achieve growth, however, they turn their increased scale into an advantage and don't let it weigh them down. By adopting the right solutions companies will remain lean and nimble as they expand - and clients receive an ever improving level of service. It is also vital they deploy tools that provide real time visibility and, as more people join the company, they are able to keep their margins as high as possible.

Solutions are available which will ease the potential growing pains and allow businesses to achieve sustainable and profitable growth. Companies, however, need to keep one eye on the future and consider how the technology they put in place now can help drive further growth and allow new innovations to be introduced as they become available.

Visibility is everything in a growing business - you don't want islands of information sitting outside the business.

With growth comes growing pains, visibility becomes obscured and business become bloated, departments become overstretched and control can be lost. Divisions need to open up as growth prompts the gears to change it is crucial that information is shared throughout the organisation to avoid tunnel vision. If companies are not planning growth in the long term, they will overcome challenges with short-term solutions which deal only with the current, short term issues.

You need to free trapped data, deploying a long term scalable solution will relieve organisations from bloating, improve communication between departments and create a long term solution that works with growth plans. This allows data to flow freely around the company enabling the crucial visibility that is needed to make informed decisions, ensuring your business can evolve with technology to drive financial profits.

To find out more about the common problems which can lead to inefficiencies and prevent companies from converting growth in size into growth in profits. Take a look at the solutions which are helping companies to overcome these challenges, stay nimble and prepare for future growth in Access Group's recent whitepaper, 'Beyond the Horizon'.

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System-wide benefits

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Goldlink+

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Delivery trends 2015

Written by: Daniel Chapman

What of delivery? 2014 saw considerable excitement over the possibility of delivery 'drones'. There is no technical difficulty here - you can build, for a few hundred pounds, your own drone capable of taking a web-cam to 500 feet. However, it is not obvious how a drone would deliver to the sixth floor of a block of flats, and the prospect of large numbers of drones flying around the urban airspace will surely attract repressive legislation.

More likely, at least in urban areas, are autonomous delivery vehicles - vans that navigate and drive themselves. Computer control could help optimise routing and improve fuel efficiency through better driving but probably the biggest attraction is that a human passenger (who you need to load and unload, ring the doorbell, install the freezer or whatever) may not need a full commercial licence - given the national shortage of drivers that could be an attractive proposition.

To sum up, the warehousing systems of the future will be an autonomous part of a much wider supply chain 'meta-system' (actually, a part of many different meta-systems 'owned by different customers, manufacturers or carriers). Through seamless integration with these systems, the warehouse system will 'know' the location, condition and time of arrival of goods inward. It will plan their disposal, and when and to what extent bulk is to be broken. It will create and implement picking, packing and dispatch activities based on sales and order data, which itself is being updated in real time as customers refine their requirements - i.e change their minds. That will involve integrating directly with whatever appropriate levels of automation have been installed and also with the human workforce through a variety of technologies. The warehouse system will work with Transport Management Systems to allocate jobs to the appropriate delivery channels. In parallel, the warehouse system will be managing packaging materials, as effectively another product range, and manage the returns of both goods and packaging. 

All of this is in near real time, so a large part of the system's work will run entirely automatically, with requirements for human 'management by exception' flagged up. And while we can't know the future of technological innovation, a good warehousing system will be, as far as possible, device independent. Easy.

For more insights and trends read our latest whitepaper, ' Step Into The Future Of Logistics'.

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Law firms

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Automated Bank Reconciliation

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