Employers have been warned to prepare for pensions auto-enrolment "as soon as possible" after research found that nearly half (44%) of organisations had taken no steps to get ready for its introduction.
The research, from benefits consultancy Jelf Employee Benefits, also found that, while 42% of employers had made some progress towards getting ready for auto-enrolment, just 31% said they felt prepared for it.
This is only a marginal improvement on the number that felt prepared in a similar study carried out by the consultancy last year, when 29.5% of employers reported that they felt ready.
Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits, warned that employers need to start preparing for pensions auto-enrolment sooner rather than later.
"We are very concerned about the number of employers that still appear to be in denial about this issue," he said.
"Auto-enrolment is not a theoretical exercise. Employers need to understand that it is going to happen, and preparations need to be made in the very near future."
Organisations were found, however, to be more aware of their staging date for auto-enrolment than last year, with 88% saying that they knew this date, compared with 69% in 2011.
While the staging dates for the majority of employers have been confirmed, those organisations with fewer than 250 employees do not, as yet, have a set staging date, although the proposed dates have been published by the Pensions Regulator.
Morten Nilsson, chief executive of pensions provider NOW: Pensions, said that there is still time for most businesses to prepare for auto-enrolment.
"While it is concerning that employers have not made more steps to prepare for auto-enrolment, there is time for employers who have staging dates in 2013," he explained. "There is plenty of scaremongering at the moment, but auto-enrolment can be relatively straightforward if simple solutions are chosen and employers select a simple, cost-efficient design that maximises the value for their employees."
Nilsson added that employers should start preparing for auto-enrolment by confirming their staging date and establishing what they need to do to get ready, such as choosing a compliant pension scheme and deciding what needs to be done by payroll and HR, and deciding how they should communicate the scheme to employees.
All the latest news and guidance on pensions auto-enrolment can be found on our employer's guide.