Auto-enrolment FAQs

Our team of auto-enrolment experts has listened to your feedback and used their knowledge to put together a list of answers to your most frequently asked auto-enrolment and workplace pension questions. 

1. Auto-enrolment staging date

What is my letter code and where do I find it?

It is a 10-digit reference and can be found on the letter The Pensions Regulator has sent you.

Can I change my staging date?

Your staging date is set in law. You cannot delay your staging date. However, you can choose to bring it forward.

I've missed my staging date, what should I do?

Don’t worry – we are here to help

If the letters you’ve received from The Pensions Regulator have got ‘lost’ or you have simply ignored them because they didn’t make sense - don’t panic. Although missing your staging date isn’t ideal, you are not alone.

Darren Ryder, The Pensions Regulator's Acting Director of Automatic Enrolment, said:

"The vast majority of employers become compliant ahead of their deadline but visits help us to identify why some have not, so we can take action where we need to. Every employer has workplace pension duties and we are determined that every worker gets the pension they are entitled to.

"Automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law. Where we find employers are not complying with the law, we will use our powers to make them comply."

Employers failing to meet their staging date (the day from which your auto-enrolment duties apply) could receive fines from The Pensions Regulator. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you comply as soon as possible. You must select and set-up a qualifying workplace pension and enrol eligible staff, as the The Pensions Regulator is currently performing spot checks on companies across the UK.  

If your date has passed then you’ll need to do the following:

1. Are you within 6 weeks and 1 day of your staging date?

You may be able to use postponement. You can postpone auto-enrolment for up to 3 months, but, you’ll need to act fast as if postponement notices aren’t issued within this period then you’ll be unable to postpone.

The next thing is to decide which workplace pension provider you want to use. It’s an important decision that could have long lasting consequences, not only for your workforce but also for your business, and therefore should not be made without due diligence.

Not all pension schemes are compatible with auto-enrolment, so you will also need to check this.

2. Let The Pensions Regulator know

Be proactive and contact The Pensions Regulator before they contact you and let them know you’re trying to set up a scheme as soon as possible. The Pensions Regulator issue fixed penalty notices to businesses missing staging dates; however, they do treat each case differently and showing you are proactively trying to correct your position will place you in the best position to minimise any fine.

3. Assess your employees

Before you can bring your scheme up-to-date you need to assess your workforce to establish which workers are eligible for auto-enrolment. Any eligible employees need to be enrolled and any employees who don't qualify need to be informed so they can decide if they wish to opt in.

4. Backdate your contributions

The Pensions Regulator will ask you to make up for the time you haven’t been compliant. If you’re less than three months past staging you are required to deduct employee contributions from your staff to be paid across to your pension provider, along with employer contributions from the date your members should have been enrolled.

You‘ll need to get in touch with payroll and using the previous payrolls for any missed periods, calculate any missed pension contributions. If you’re more than three months from your staging date The Pensions Regulator have the power to make you pay for the missed employee contributions as well as your own.

5. Communicate to your employees

Another employer duty is to inform your staff – if you need any further support we can help you with this.

6. Complete your declaration of compliance

Before you can become officially compliant you need to complete your declaration of compliance.

2. Declaration of compliance

How long do I have to complete the declaration of compliance?

Although you have five months to do this, we recommend that you complete your declaration as soon as possible after your staging date.

Why not download our free Auto-enrolment checklist that details everything you need to do before, at and after your staging date

What is a declaration of compliance?

It is simply information to show you are meeting your automatic enrolment duties. You have not completed your automatic enrolment duties until you’ve submitted your declaration to TPR.

It’s a legal duty and if it is not completed within five months of your staging date you could be fined. You can authorise specialists like Johnson Fleming to do this on your behalf.

Do I have to complete a declaration just once within the deadline or does it have to be done every three years?

You need to complete your first declaration of compliance within five months of your staging date.

Every three years when you complete your re-enrolment duties, you will also need to submit a re-declaration of compliance to tell TPR what you have done at re-enrolment. Your re-declaration will need to be completed within five months of the third anniversary of your staging date. You will then need to do this again in another three years.

For example, if your staging date was 1 May 2014, you would need to complete your re-declaration by 30 September 2017.

3. Directors and company ownership

I'm the director of my own company - does automatic enrolment apply to me?

If you are the sole director and you’ve no other staff working for you, the company does not have automatic enrolment duties. If you believe you don’t have any auto-enrolment duties you will need to tell The Pensions Regulator that you’re not an employer.

If there are others working for the company, you will have auto-enrolment duties for them. What you need to do will depend on their age and earnings.

We're a family business - do automatic enrolment duties apply to us?

If no one else is working for the company, it depends on your roles and if you’ve employment contracts. You can find more information about employment contracts on the employment status section of the GOV.UK website.

If you are all directors:

  • With employment contracts, the company will have auto-enrolment duties for all of you
  • And at least two of you have employment contracts, the company will have auto-enrolment duties for all those who do
  • The company won’t have any automatic enrolment duties if only one of you has an employment contract, or none of you has

If some of you are directors and some are not:

  • The company will have auto-enrolment duties for all those who aren’t directors
  • If at least two of you have employment contracts (whether directors or not), the company will also have auto-enrolment duties for any director who has an employment contract
  • If the company does have auto-enrolment duties for anyone, what you need to do depends on their age and earnings. If you do have auto-enrolment duties for any person who’s a director, and they are aged between 22 up to state pension age and earn over £10,000 per year, or £833 per month or, £192 per week, you are not required to put them into a pension scheme unless you choose to do so.

If you believe you don’t have any auto-enrolment duties you will need to tell TPR you’re not an employer.

We’re married/in a civil partnership and run our own company – do automatic enrolment duties apply to us?

If no one else works for the company, it will depend on your roles and if you have employment contracts.

If you are both directors:

  • The company will have auto-enrolment duties for both of you if both of you have employment contracts
  • The company won’t have any auto-enrolment duties if only one of you has an employment contract, or neither of you has.

If one of you is a director and the other is not:

  • The company will have auto-enrolment duties for the person who isn’t a director
  • If you both have contracts of employment, the company will also have auto-enrolment duties for the person who is a director.

If the company does have automatic enrolment duties for anyone, what you need to do depends on their age and earnings. If you do have auto-enrolment duties for the person who is a director, and they are aged between 22 up to State Pension Age and earn over £10,000 per year, or £833 per month or, £192 per week, you are not required to put them into a pension scheme unless you choose to do so.

If you believe you don’t have any auto-enrolment duties you will need to tell TPR you’re not an employer. 

4. Costs

How much will I have to pay into a pension scheme?

The law sets a minimum level of contributions to be paid by an employer. At the moment this is 1% of your member of staff’s earnings, but this will increase over the coming years.

By April 2019 all your members of staff must receive minimum pension contributions of 8%, with at least 3% coming from you, the employer.

You and/or your staff can pay more than the minimum.

5. Eligibility and exemptions

I only have one member of staff and they don’t want to be in a pension scheme. Do I still need to complete a declaration?

Yes – every employer with at least one member of staff needs to complete a declaration of compliance. If you only have one member of staff who needs to be put into a scheme, they still need to be put into the scheme before they can ask to leave it.

If you're unsure whether you have any auto-enrolment duties take a look at our Auto-enrolment duties checking service 

Do I need to set up a pension scheme if none of my staff need to be put into one?

If any of your staff are not aged between 22 up to state pension age and earn less than £192 a week or £833 a month, then you only need to put them into a pension scheme if they ask to join.

If they ask to join you will need to set one up. If your member of staff earns more than £113 a week (or £490 a month) you must pay money into the scheme as well. If they earn less than this, you can choose whether you wish to pay money in or not.

If you have staff aged between 22 and state pension age, you’ll need to check each time you pay them after your staging date whether their earnings are over £192 a week (£833 a month). If their earnings are over this amount, you’ll need to provide a pension scheme for them. This includes anyone who starts working for you after your staging date as well.

If you're unsure whether you have any auto-enrolment duties take a look at our Auto-enrolment duties checking service 

What if I don't employ any eligible staff?

Even if you don’t have staff who must be put into a pension scheme you still have other duties which include writing to all staff individually and completing your declaration of compliance.

If you're unsure whether you have any auto-enrolment duties take a look at our Auto-enrolment duties checking service 

When will I need to put my staff into a pension scheme?

Your staging date is the date your automatic enrolment duties come into effect and you must be prepared for this date.

If I have staff on a temporary or fixed term contract do I have to put them into a pension scheme?

If you employ staff whose hours vary, pay fluctuates, seasonal or are on temporary contracts then the legal duties will apply to you. What duties you will have depends on their ages and earnings.

From your staging date, you must work out who to put into a pension scheme based on their age and earnings. Even if the number of people you employ varies, or they have fluctuating hours and pay, you must assess them individually each time you run your payroll.

Any staff aged between 22 up to state pension age and earn over £192 a week or £833 a month must be put into a pension scheme which you must contribute towards.

You can delay working out who to put into a pension scheme for some or all of the people you employ for up to three months. This is known as ‘postponement’.

If you're unsure whether you have any auto-enrolment duties take a look at our Auto-enrolment duties checking service 

Which employees do I need to automatically enrol?

As an employer you must assess each member of your workforce to identify into which category of worker they fall. This is to determine what duties you will have to carry out for that specific worker.

The Pensions Regulator has created a really useful flow diagram to help you determine which workers may or may not be affected.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW - http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/docs/dg-3-appendix-b.pdf

6. Communicating auto-enrolment to your workers

What letters do I need to send to my staff?

This depends on your circumstances and what duties you have towards your staff. Johnson Fleming can help you with your employee communications.

7. Compliance

What fines can The Pensions Regulator impose?

Fines range from a £400 fixed penalty notice, to a varying daily escalating penalty notice from £50 to £10,000.

If you're unsure whether you have any auto-enrolment duties take a look at our Auto-enrolment duties checking service 

What happens if I don't comply?

You need to comply with your duties - it's the law. If you do not you may face enforcement action. Enforcement action usually starts with statutory notices and is followed by penalty notices, which TPR can recover through the courts.

If you are late complying TPR expect you to pay back any missed contributions to put staff in the position they would have been in if you’d complied on time; this may include backdating contributions to the staging date.

Deliberately failing to enrol eligible staff and knowingly including false information in a declaration of compliance are criminal offences and may result in prosecution.

8. Postponement

When can we use postponement?

You can choose to postpone auto-enrolment for up to three months for some or all of your staff. You must write to your staff to tell them you’re postponing auto-enrolment for them.

You can only postpone automatic enrolment from:

  • your staging date
  • a staff member’s first day of employment
  • the date a staff member first becomes eligible (turns 22 and earns over £192 per week (£833 per month)

9. Payroll solutions

Is my payroll software compatible for my chosen pension scheme?

If you use payroll software you should ask the payroll provider whether it’ll work with the pension scheme you’d like to use.

You should also check that the software can carry out all the automatic enrolment tasks. If it can’t, you should consider updating your software. Ask your payroll provider or potential pension scheme providers to tell you what information they require and the tasks they’ll carry out for you.

10. Re-enrolment

What is automatic re-enrolment?

Every three years you’ll need to put staff back into your pension scheme if they have left it, and if they meet the criteria to be put into a pension scheme. This is known as automatic re-enrolment. The Pensions Regulator will write to you in advance of your automatic re-enrolment date.

Learn more by reading our guide to automatic re-enrolment