Almost half (43%) of small businesses are leaving it until the last minute to comply with their auto-enrolment (AE) duties, according to new data.
Wealthcare also found that 12.5% of businesses approaching the firm to be their AE provider have missed their deadline for staging.
It also follows a significant rise in the number of compliance notices issued by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) as the smallest employers reach their staging dates.
Last year, the watchdog issued 27,818 compliance notices, around 88% of the total 31,680 it has issued since the AE regime began rolling out in 2012.
It also gave out 8,314 fixed penalty notices over 2016, making up around 85% of all notices issued. Almost 60% of all escalating penalty notices were given out between October and December last year.
Wealthcare joint managing director Stephen Cainer said the figures were "alarming".
"Our figures show there is still an alarming lack of preparation on the part of employers around the UK," he said. "AE is a legal duty for employers to enrol their staff in a workplace pension scheme and pay contributions.
"The earlier they prepare, the smoother the transition will be. Planning in advance is essential."
Last week, TPR announced it would begin ‘spot checks' on employers to ensure they are complying with their AE duties on an ongoing basis past their staging dates.
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