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Who needs to be enrolled?

To check if your client needs to enrol staff into a pension scheme that can be used for automatic enrolment, it’s important your client carries out a preliminary assessment of their staff to work out who to put into the pension scheme. The assessment can either be done manually or automatically using business software and will need to be carried out each time the workforce changes. Read about checking payroll software supports automatic enrolment.

If your client has business software (eg for payroll, HR and pensions administration), this could be set up to automatically assess and monitor staff ages, earnings and pension contributions paid into a pension scheme by a member of staff and/or your client. If they don’t, the table below shows how to assess staff based on their ages and how much they earn.

Monthly gross earnings Age Weekly gross earnings
From 16 to 21 From 22 to SPA* From SPA to 74
£490 and below Has a right to join a pension scheme 1 £113 and below
Over £490 up to £833 Has a right to opt in 2 Over £113 up to £192
Over £833 Has a right to opt in Must be enrolled 3 Has a right to opt in Over £192

Figures correct as of 2017/2018. *SPA = state pension age

1 Has a right to join a pension scheme
If they ask, the employer must provide a pension scheme for them, but the employer doesn’t have to pay contributions into a pension scheme.

2 Has a right to opt in
If they ask to be put into a pension scheme, the employer must put them in a pension scheme that can be used for automatic enrolment and pay regular contributions.

3 Must be enrolled
The employer must put these members of staff into a pension scheme that can be used for automatic enrolment and pay regular contributions. The employer doesn't need to ask their permission. If a member of staff gives notice, or the employer gives them notice, to leave employment before the employer has completed this process, the employer has a choice whether to enrol them or not. The employer also has a choice whether to enrol a director who meets these age and earnings criteria.

When to enrol and pay contributions into a pension scheme

On the date your client's duties begin they must carry out a full assessment of all their staff.

After their duties come into effect, your client’s staff (including those on variable pay, flexible pay, irregular hours, etc) should be enrolled the first time they earn over the automatic enrolment threshold of £192 a week or £833 per month if paid monthly.

Once staff have been enrolled, the employer must pay regular contributions into their pension scheme. If the staff member's earnings fall below £113 per week or £490 per month, the employer may stop paying contributions unless the rules of the pension scheme they have enrolled into require them to continue. You should check with the pension scheme what their rules are.

Bonus payment

If a bonus is paid and pushes the member of staff’s earnings over the automatic enrolment threshold amount in that specific pay period, they would need to be enrolled in that same week or month. The detailed guidance below has in-depth information about this or read our page on 'Employing staff on irregular hours or incomes'.

For more information on contributions see step '4. Working out your client’s costs'.

Opting out, opting in and joining a scheme

It's against the law to try and persuade staff to opt out of (or leave) a pension scheme.

If your client doesn’t have anyone to enrol, they'll still have other duties, which are outlined throughout this guide.

Read step “7. Assessing and enrolling staff” for more information on opting out, opting in and joining a scheme.

What if my client doesn't have any staff other than directors?

Your client won’t have any automatic enrolment duties if any of the following apply:

  • they are the sole director
  • the only people working for them are a number of directors, none of whom have an employment contract
  • the only people working for them are a number of directors, only one of whom has an employment contract

Automatic enrolment will apply if more than one director has a contract of employment. In this case, if your client does have automatic enrolment duties for a director, and the director meets the age and earnings criteria above, your client is not required to automatically enrol them unless your client chooses to do so.

Full details on the circumstances in which directors are exempt from automatic enrolment can be found on Director exemptions from automatic enrolment.

For more information on what to do if your client is not an employer, go to what if I don't have any staff?

There may be other circumstances where an employer may not have any duties. You can find more information about employment contracts by visiting employment status (GOV.UK).

What letters are sent to my clients from TPR?

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) sends out letters and emails to employers to support them with their automatic enrolment duties. The letters and emails we send to employers with staging dates are available for you to refer to. These letters form a series of communications which are sent to your clients during the automatic enrolment process, helping them to understand their duties and guiding them through what to do next.

You may find it useful to familiarise yourself with these, to help your clients with staging dates understand what do to and by when.

Advanced guidance

These resources may help if you have more detailed questions on the above:

Go to '4. Working out your client's costs'

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