More than half a million employers have now been brought into the auto-enrolment (AE) regime with over 7.6 million people now saving in a pension.
As of 31 March, 503,178 employers had completed their duties under the AE regime, according to The Pensions Regulator's (TPR) latest declaration of compliance report.
The figure was boosted in the last three months as 136,000 small and micro-employers joined the programme, with a new employer joining roughly every 57 seconds.
Since the start of the year, an additional 492,000 employees have been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, while a further 124,000 were already active members of a qualifying scheme on their firm's staging date.
Pensions minister Richard Harrington welcomed the figures.
"These impressive new figures show that by setting up a workplace pension, employers are getting their staff on the road to a financially secure retirement," he said. "But there are nearly a million employers out there who still need to enrol their staff and I would encourage them to take up the support on offer from TPR.
"Pensions can seem daunting, but there is a wealth of information available to help you get set up."
The milestone came as AE enters its final year of staging, with another 900,000 employers estimated to be brought on board by April next year. Two-thirds of those will begin their staging process before the year-end.
TPR's executive director of AE Charles Counsell called on these employers to get engaged early to ensure they do not receive a fine.
"We expected that the number of employers becoming compliant would increase dramatically this year, and I'm delighted that we've reached the 500,000 mark," he said. "Hundreds of thousands more employers are due to follow suit over the coming months and it is vital that they act early and do not leave themselves open to being fined."
With the AE regime picking up small and micro employers, TPR has been required to use its enforcement and compliance powers more frequently. In the final quarter of 2016, TPR issued 20% of all compliance notices since the launch of AE in 2012.
In addition, it gave out 2,919 fixed penalty notices and 870 escalating penalty notices, 30% and 59% of all issued respectively since AE began. It was also on two occasions required to acquire a warrant to search premises, in a first use of its power under section 78 of the Pensions Act 2004.
"Some employers may see becoming compliant as a challenge but we have written to each of them and are here to help them meet their responsibilities," Counsell continued. "I would urge every employer to check today that they know what they need to do and when they need to do it. Now is the time to seek help if you need it."
All employers which existed prior to the introduction of AE were required to stage by 1 April, and the rollout has now moved to companies that set up after April 2012.
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