Humphreys doubles down on auto-enrolment pensions scheme this year

Minister plans tender-process launch to build pensions system and publish enabling draft legislation in March

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has doubled down on her plan to launch a landmark auto-enrolment (AE) pensions scheme this year, even after missing key self-imposed timelines on the project in 2023.

Speaking at the National Pensions Summit in Dublin on Thursday, Ms Humphreys said her department will issue a so-called request for tender on Friday to a shortlist of firms vying to build and run the AE system. It had originally been targeting a launch of the formal tender process in November.

The Minister said that an enabling Bill for the plan, originally aimed for publication before the Dáil recess last summer and subsequently revised to a time before the end of 2023, will be unveiled in March “and begin its passage through the Oireachtas immediately thereafter”.

“I will sit in the Dáil and Seanad day and night to get the Bill enacted as quickly as humanly possible,” Ms Humphreys said. “Too much has been invested to get to this point. We have the stone pushed to the top of the mountain and I am absolutely determined to get it over the top.”


The target of having auto-enrolment, which was first proposed in 2006, up and running within 12 months has long been viewed sceptically by pensions industry participants and businesses. It is expected that about 750,000 workers without occupational or private pension plans will be captured by the plan, which has been the subject of years of starts and stops.

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The department has been engaging since at least the summer with companies looking to bid for the contract through a pre-qualification stage. The successful party will provide and operate the system on behalf of a planned new State organisation, called the Central Processing Authority, that will oversee auto-enrolment.

Indian IT company Tata Consultancy Services, which set up and runs a UK auto-enrolment system established over a decade ago, London-based investment platforms specialist FNZ Group and Irish-American professional services firm Accenture are among parties that have been vying for the contract, industry sources previously said.

The department must also find investment firms to manage the underlying assets of the auto-enrolment pot before a green button can be pressed on the scheme.

Meanwhile, the Government faces a significant task selling the project to the electorate before the launch late next year —and months before the general election. Seven in 10 members of the public are unaware of the project, according to research published during the autumn by Standard Life.

The latest Central Statistics Office data shows that two-thirds of workers aged 20-69 have pension coverage of some form outside of the State retirement income. However, when public sector workers are stripped out, the figure slumps to about 33 per cent.

Under the auto-enrolment plan, workers and their employers will each initially pay 1.5 per cent of a person’s gross salary into the scheme. From year four of the scheme, that will increase to 3 per cent — irrespective of when someone joins the scheme — rising again to 4.5 per cent in year seven and 6 per cent from year 10.

For every €3 a worker pays in, their employer would pay the same and the State would top this up by €1. It amounts to an effective 25 per cent contribution.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times