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More than a fifth of small businesses are missing their deadlines to comply with auto-enrolment, according to provider NOW: Pensions.

Using its own data, 40% of businesses completed their application in the second quarter either very close to their staging date or after their deadline had already passed. Nineteen per cent contacted NOW: Pensions within a month of their staging date whilst one in five (21%) left it until after their staging date had passed - the highest percentage over the recorded quarters.

At the other end of the spectrum however, over a third (34%) of firms signed up six months or more ahead of their staging date whilst over one in ten (11%) signed up three to six months in advance. Just 5% of employers took action between two and three months ahead of the deadline while 10% got their scheme in place between one and two months ahead of their staging date.

Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions, said: "As time goes by, it's becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to auto-enrolment, smaller employers are divided into planners or procrastinators.

"While it's worrying that one in five are missing their staging date, it's also reassuring to see that a third are planning well in advance.

"Small business owners have a lot to think about and it's easy for auto-enrolment to be put on the back burner but the fines for non-compliance are steep missing the deadline can cause unnecessary sleepless nights."