Restrictions on who can join the pension scheme set up by the government as part of auto-enrolment should be ended now, MPs said today.
The National Employment Savings Trust was established as a simple, low-cost pension scheme to enable employers to meet their auto-enrolment requirements.
It is aimed at low-to-moderate earners and there is currently an annual limit on the total contributions that can be made to a NEST pension each year. There is also a ban on transfers in and out of the NEST scheme.
As it stands, these restrictions are due to be reviewed in 2017, but last year the government called for views on whether an earlier review was needed.
Responding to this call for evidence, the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee warned that the restrictions were preventing NEST from addressing the market failure it was designed to resolve and called for them to be removed immediately.
Dame Anne Begg, chair of the committee, explained: 'Employers want simplicity. They want to be able to choose one pension scheme to cover all their employees. The cap on annual contributions to NEST means that employers can't opt for NEST for their higher earners or if they want to make more generous contributions.
'So some employers are dismissing the NEST option and choosing a private pension provider who can offer a scheme for all their employees.
'NEST is required to be a low-cost scheme and to offer good value. Other pension providers don't have this same obligation. There is therefore a risk that the restrictions will mean some employees are prevented from having access to the best value pension scheme available,' she added.
Begg noted that the government had already committed to addressing the issue of transferring in and out of NEST in order to implement its 'pot follows member' solution to the problem associated with small pension pots. 'This makes the case even stronger for lifting the restrictions now,' she said.
The government should introduce amending legislation to end the restrictions as a 'matter of urgency', the MPs said, to ensure they were lifted before auto-enrolment requirements begin to apply to small and medium-sized enterprises in 2014.