Despite evidence of the effectiveness of automatic enrollment in helping employees to begin saving earlier for retirement, only one-third of companies with retirement plans offer auto enrollment, according to new research from Principal Financial Group.

A vast majority — 84% — of workers who were automatically enrolled in their workplace retirement plan said they started to save for retirement sooner than if they had to take action to make the enrollment decision on their own, according to the latest quarterly Principal Retirement Security Survey.

During May, Principal surveyed more than 2,000 workers and retirees and 236 plan sponsors across the U.S. to gain insights and explore current concerns and actions surrounding saving for retirement and financial behaviors.Find the full results for both consumers and plan sponsors at this link: Principal Retirement Research.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would expand automatic enrollment, simplify many retirement plan rules, and strengthen small businesses’ ability to offer workplace retirement plans.

Survey respondents listed retirement planning as their top financial priority, and one-third of workers said they’re planning to save more now than before the pandemic. On average, retirement plan participants say they need to save 11.6% of their paychecks to help meet retirement goals. A majority said they count on increasing their financial literacy (80%) and their employers offering financial wellness resources to increase retirement readiness.

“We’ve known for a long time that automatic enrollment features are powerful in helping people feel more secure as they strive to build up retirement savings, but these latest survey results show we currently have a window of opportunity for access to education as well as implementation,” said Sri Reddy, senior vice president of Retirement and Income Solutions at Principal.

Principal also found that company matching was another major factor in helping boost workers’ savings results, with nearly half (47%) of workers noting it as the biggest influence toward increasing their contribution rate.

Workers in the survey were open to automatic enrollment features and education, with 75% either positive or neutral on employers automatically deferring an extra 1% of their salary each year until they reach 10%. In addition, 97% were positive or neutral about being told the average contribution rate of employees in their age and salary bracket.

Proposed federal legislation introduced in May called the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2021, or SECURE 2.0, would require a minimum of 3% auto-enrollment for most new 401(k) and 403(b) plans. A summary of the legislation by the Society for Human Resource Management can be found at this link.