Most self-employed workers are not doing enough to save for their retirement but a new report concludes that the Government's Automatic Enrolment scheme is not the answer.
Freelancer body IPSE has investigated what it calls the "ticking time bomb of the self-employed pensions crisis" and has found that just 31% of the UK's 4.8 million-strong self-employed population are paying into a pension.
Its report also reveals that two-thirds (67%) of Brits that work for themselves are concerned about saving for later life. Millennials, women and those new to self-employment are at particular risk of pensioner poverty it concludes.
ComRes surveyed 1,000 self-employed workers for IPSE about their attitudes to Automatic Enrolment and found that only 36% said they would remain enrolled, 25% would opt out and 38% said they didn't know what they would do.
Jonathan Lima-Matthews, IPSE's senior policy adviser, said: "Self-employment is a progressive way of working, but unfortunately current pension provisions simply do not cater to their needs.
"While Auto Enrolment has been a successful policy for boosting the number of employees paying into a pension, our research found it's simply not a viable savings solution for the self-employed. There is no employer to enrol them, and it also reduces their ability to be flexible and in control of their money - two of the fundamental attractions of self-employment."
IPSE has proposed a number of ways to combat the looming crisis:
- The rolling out of a "sidecar pension scheme" for the self-employed, allowing them to save for later life and also into a "rainy day" fund for emergencies;
- The forthcoming single financial guidance body should provide tailored advice on how the self-employed can save for later life;
- Pension products must be more user-friendly and the terms of a policy need to be clear and easy to understand;
- Older self-employed people should be offered a free mid-life MOT, connecting them with advisors to assess financial health and find ways to improve their savings;
- Universities, schools and pension providers should work together to provide financial education for younger people.
The report concludes that "the Government should not introduce Automatic Enrolment for the self-employed, given both the barriers highlighted in its recent review and IPSE's research showing many self-employed would opt out of it."
The proposals have been welcomed by Tom McPhail, head of retirement policy at Hargreaves Lansdown. He said: "This is an excellent analysis of the self-employed workers' retirement saving challenge, with a sensible and balanced package of solutions."