The Government has confirmed that the auto-enrolment pension scheme has been pushed back for SMEs. Firms employing between 30 and 49 staff will not now have to enrol staff until 1 August 1 2015 at the earliest.

Those businesses with fewer than 30 staff will not have to comply until 1 January 2016 at the very earliest, but as late as April 2017.

The Forum of Private Business Chief Executive, Phil Orford, welcomed the move:

“We welcome the Government’s clarification on the dates for auto-enrolment. This temporary delay will allow small firms to now focus fully on running their business until the economy is back in firmer territory.

“We believe this will also allow small business the extra time to plan for and subsequently implement the scheme successfully.”

The level of pension contributions will also be phased in over time to help employers and individuals adjust. Full contributions will not have to be paid until 1 October 1 2018.

The TUC criticised the delay. Said TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber:

“This is a deeply disappointing delay. Everyone agrees that we face a pensions crisis, with two out of three private sector workers not in any kind of workplace pension.

“Today’s announcement does not just hit the staff of small employers. What’s worse is that even workers auto-enrolled this year will now have to wait until the end of the staging process before they get their full contribution.”