Vince Linnane, chief executive of the Pensions Management Institute (PMI), tells Maggie Williams about a new qualification to help reward and HR staff prepare for auto-enrolment

Vince Linnane

What is CPAE?

The PMI’s new qualification – the Certificate in Pensions Automatic Enrolment (CPAE) – covers the auto enrolment technical requirements that payroll and HR staff will need to understand and gives them the detail they need on topics such as staging dates and qualifying earnings.

When is it appropriate for HR staff to take the qualification?

From the information we’ve gathered from pensions managers who are part of the PMI, the whole communication and planning process for auto-enrolment takes about 12 to 18 months, so taking the qualification about a year before your company’s staging date is a roughly suitable time frame. 

The qualification is also suitable for any other advisers and service providers involved with your auto-enrolment process, such as communications specialists and financial advisers.

What’s involved?

CPAE comprises an online study module provided by the PMI and a one-hour exam consisting of 60 multiple choice questions. It requires relatively little in the way of study – we are estimating that for a complete beginner it should take 35 to 40 hours of study work. There will be plenty of people who should be able to pass it with much less study time, but that’s the maximum that should be required.

Can CPAE be considered as a ‘quality mark’ for those involved in auto-enrolment?

Yes, certainly. It is appropriate for all parties involved in auto-enrolment. The qualification will have a particularly relevant role for those being handed the responsibility of auto-enrolment in 2013-14, including compensation and benefits staff, reward professionals, HR staff and also some payroll staff. Company secretaries and auditors working with smaller firms who are called in for their expert advice will also find this qualification useful.

It is also a good governance measure to ask the professionals you are working with, such as employee benefits consultants, whether they have taken the qualification themselves.

How was the qualification developed?

The PMI had several discussions with the Pensions Regulator to establish why the qualification was required, where it went beyond the detail that the Regulator had on its website and how to structure it. The feedback we’d received was that a relatively short and snappy qualification was preferable, as a complement to the large amount of technical detail already available on the Pensions Regulator’s site. Rather than re-invent the wheel, we based a lot of the materials in the qualification around the Regulator’s information, but also contextualised it with additional features such as anonymised case studies to illustrate tricky situations like handling short-term workers.


The CPAE qualification costs £395 for non-members of the PMI, which includes a £50 affiliate membership, valid for a year. For members, the cost is £345. This includes access to the study module, online tuition support, exam entrance fee and certificate of achievement.

Further information is available on the PMI’s website: