If a company is setting up a business now, then auto enrolment duties simply begin on the first day the employees start work. This is known as your Duties Start Date.
Auto enrolment staging dates were set by The Pensions Regulator, using PAYE scheme sizes as a way of defining who needed to be enrolled and when.
What are your pension duties?
The easiest way to understand new duties is to use The Pension Regulator’s tool. On the Duties Start Date (the first day as an employer), the employer must assess all of its employees. To use the tool, we can open it in a new window for you. This will let you come back to this page easily, to learn more about choosing a pension provider: https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/en/employers/new-employers
Choosing a pension provider
As The Pensions Regulator explains, if a company needs to set up a pension scheme to handle auto enrolment then it has to choose a pension provider.
For new employers, small companies in particular, this can be daunting – but we make it easy to set up and run a scheme, even if the company is only employing a small number of people.
What happens if a company misses its Duties Start Date?
If a company misses its Duties Start Date, then it may need to backdate contributions for employees that should have been auto enrolled already.
If less than six weeks have passed
Depending on which pension provider is chosen, it can take a few weeks to set up a scheme. By comparison, we believe our system is quick and easy to get set up – often in just a few hours.
As soon as an employer starts their pension scheme they need to enrol the employees who meet the auto enrolment criteria. If less than six weeks have passed since the Duties Start Date, then the employer will have to backdate those employees’ scheme membership to the day they first met the age and earnings criteria. The employer may also need to backdate contributions.
The alternative is to use ‘postponement’, which enables assessment to be postponed for up to three months. When an employer chooses postponement, it doesn’t need to backdate contributions. The employer can then postpone auto enrolment (the process, not its responsibilities) from:
- An employee’s first day of employment
- The day on which the Duties Start Date became effective
- The date an employee first becomes eligible for auto enrolment
An employer can only choose postponement if the company is within six weeks of the date it became eligible to auto enrol employees.
If more than six weeks have passed
If more than six weeks have passed since the Duties Start Date, then the employer will have to pay any contributions that should have been made back to the date employees met the age and earnings criteria for the scheme.
As you can see, it’s important to choose a pension provider that can help clients to get set up quickly.
For further information visit: https://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/
Once every three years, employers must re-enrol any eligible staff who were employed when the pension scheme was set up but – for whatever reason – aren’t actively paying in three years later.
Your first date is 3 years after you first staged (had to enrol employees).
The employer can decide when this happens (although they can’t postpone re-enrolment). Most companies choose the beginning of a month or a date that aligns with their regular payroll cycle.
The day itself must occur within a six month window that starts three months before the third anniversary of when automatic enrolment duties started and ends three months after it.
For example, if a pension scheme opened on 1st July 2019, then the third anniversary of that staging date would be 1st July 2022. The six month window would run from 1st April 2022 to 30th September 2022, during which time all qualifying employees would need to be re-enrolled.
Employers that are using an alternative contribution basis (as opposed to using Qualifying Earnings), you are required to self-certify the pension scheme, confirming that all employees are covered by the scheme design being used, which at least matches the minimum contribution requirement. This self-certification needs to be in the form of a signed certificate. The maximum certification period is 18 months, and it is important that you sign and retain this with your records for a minimum period of 6 years after its expiry date, as it will need to be provided to The Pensions Regulator should it ever be requested. You will be required to produce a new certificate after 18 months.
The certificate does not need to be sent to the Regulator, it only needs to be kept on your records.
As the Employer you have the choice as to how much you contribute to your company scheme and also how much you ask your employees to contribute as long as you comply with the minimum legal limits as defined below:
|‘Steady state’ – from 6 April 2019||8% of qualifying earnings (inclusive of at least a 3% employer contribution)|
The above is the cheapest option for Employers, but not the easiest to understand, or administer due to the definition of qualifying earnings4 and therefore many Employers select from the following minimum options:
|Set 1||Total is at least 9% of pensionable pay and pensionable pay is at least equal to basic pay (inclusive of at least a 4% employer contribution)|
|Set 2||Total is at least 8% of pensionable pay and pensionable pay is at least equal to basic pay (inclusive of at least a 3% employer contribution)|
|And:||Pensionable pay constitutes at least 85% of total earnings for all relevant jobholders taken together. I.e. add up your total wage bill and your total basic wage bill and make sure the latter is at least 85% of the former|
|Set 3||Total is at least 7% of pensionable pay and pensionable pay is equal to total earnings (inclusive of at least a 3% employer contribution)|
Qualifying earnings is the definition used as the lowest level of pension contribution that can be compliant with Automatic Enrolment legislation and means that contributions are calculated and paid on the salary between the lower level and upper level, (i.e. £6,240pa and £50,270pa in tax year 21/22). This means salary below £6,240pa or above £50,270 is effectively not pensionable and therefore the maximum pensionable pay in tax year 21/22 under this method is £44,030pa.
Who to enrol
Every year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reviews the earnings thresholds for automatic enrolment. The changes take effect from the start of the next tax year following the changes on 6 April.
In basic terms anyone aged 21 or over and earning above the earnings trigger below need to be enrolled automatically into a pension scheme.
Earnings trigger for the current tax year 2021-2022
|Pay reference period|
|Tax Year 2021/22||Annual||1 week||Fortnight||4 weeks||1 month||1 quarter||Bi-annual|
|Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment||£10,000||£192||£384||£768||£833||£2,499||£4,998|
A salary sacrifice (or as we prefer to call it Salary Exchange) arrangement is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, usually in return for a non-cash benefit.
As an employer, you can set up a salary sacrifice arrangement by changing the terms of your employee’s employment contract. Your employee needs to agree to this change and certain payroll process need to be put in place.
Employers can choose to postpone auto-enrolling employees into your pension scheme for up to 3 months. You will need to write to the affected employees individually within six weeks of the postponement period to let them know auto-enrolment has been postponed.
The postponement period begins from:
- Employers duty start date
- First day of employment for a new employee
- The date an employee first meets the age and earnings criteria to be put into a pension scheme
Employees have the right to opt in to the pension scheme at any point during the postponement period.
Once the 3 month postponement period is over an employee will be automatically enrolled into the pension scheme.
As the employer you are legally responsible for meeting your duties within the required timescales.
Although generally supportive to help you understand the requirements the Pensions Regulator also has the power to impose penalties, initially of £400 and then at a daily rate varying from £50 to £10,000 depending on the size of your business.
The Pensions Regulator also has the power to carry out inspections at your premises and in extreme circumstances prosecute – with a maximum punishment of 2 years in prison