Hammers mark pensions milestone

Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP paid a visit to West Ham United on Wednesday to celebrate the Club enrolling the country's three-millionth employee into the Government's workplace pensions scheme.

The scheme, which saw Hammers Vice-Chairman Karren Brady appear in its roll-out publicity, has been up and running since 2012, when the UK's largest employers began enrolling its workers into pension schemes.

It is extending to the smallest firms and new employers by 2018, addressing chronic under-saving with millions not putting aside enough for retirement, and only one-in-three private sector employees paying into a workplace pension.

This month's automatic enrolment registration report shows that more than 10,000 employers of all types from charities to supermarkets, hospitals to football clubs have now automatically enrolled their workers.

Mr Webb, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Thornbury & Yate, met Hammers employees Dougie Robertson, the Club's Head Groundsman, Sponsorship & Events Executive Julie O'Leary and Marketing & Media Executive Esha Chopra during his visit to the Boleyn Ground,

He said: "West Ham have put the three millionth worker into a workplace pension scheme, so we're delighted to be here.

"The idea is that lots of people have a job, but don't have a pension, so when they retire and they don't have a wage coming in, they don't have much to live on bar the state pension.

"So the Government said to firms, 'Will you put your workers into a pension?' The firm puts some money in, the worker puts some money in and the Government puts some tax relief in. If people don't want that they're free to opt out, but most people say 'Thanks very much and we're pleased to be in'.

"We're really grateful to Karren Brady, who was one of the publically-known faces [of the scheme]. People know Karren, they know Theo Paphitis, Nick Hewer and so on, and I think that reassured people that names they trust, business leaders, were saying I'm in, this is a good scheme, be part of it. The public have responded to it.

"I'm a West Bromwich Albion fan myself, and I know the pain of watching a team struggle in the Premier League! We've been Boing-Boinged a few times. It's a difficult season but I hope we'll just cling on."

Hammers employees Julie O'Leary (left), Dougie Robertson (second right) and Esha Chopra (right) meet Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP

Also present was Charles Counsell, executive director of automatic enrolment at The Pensions Regulator, and as a Hammers fan, he was particularly happy to be at the Boleyn Ground.

He said: "We're all living longer and we all need to save to put away a bit for our retirement, so to have three milion people saving, who weren't saving before is just tremendous.

"It has been great to meet people who work here day in, day out. To meet Dougie, who is the groundsman and hear how he keeps the pitch keeping so perfect was fantastic.

I'm really excited to be here and be this close to the pitch because I have been a fan since I was five or six. That the three millionth employee was at West Ham is such a great treat."

Hammers Sponsorship & Events Executive Julie O'Leary added "We met with the Pensions Minister and he explained to us that West Ham registered the three millionth employee into the scheme.

"They came here to ask us a few questions, talk through the scheme and do some media interviews to help raise awareness of it.

"It's excellent that it's automatic enrolment. I came here from Ireland four years ago, so I had a pension there. When I moved here I always planned to get a pension but put it off and always had somewhere else to spend the money!

"The fact that this scheme is automatic enrolment means that it takes care of everything for you. It's a nice easy way to settle yourself into pension contributions."