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What is your client's staging date?

The staging date is when your client's automatic enrolment duties came into effect for them, if they were an employer on or before 1 April 2017.

If your client became an employer on or after 2 April 2017 and before 30 September 2017, they may not have a staging date - their duties may have come into effect on their duties start date. To find out whether your client has a staging date or duties start date, please refer to our information on this group of employers, which will also help you to understand the tasks they'll need to complete in order to comply with their duties.

If your client took on their first member of staff on or after 1 October 2017, they will have a duties start date instead of a staging date. In this case, their duties are effective from the day their first member of staff started working for them. 

How is the staging date determined?

An employer's staging date is determined by the number of people in the largest PAYE scheme that they use, based on the data from HM Revenue and Customs held by us on 1 April 2012. An employer’s staging date is set in law and is the date their automatic enrolment duties apply to them. They must be prepared for this date.

Your client can decide to bring their staging date forward to align it with other business practices, such as the start of their financial year. Read about bringing a staging date forward.

How will I check my client's staging date?

You can check your client's staging date by entering the PAYE references that were in use on 1 April 2012 into the employer’s staging date tool. Your client's staging date will be the earliest date.

PAYE references are found on your client's letter they received from us about automatic enrolment. They can also be found on the letter from HMRC when they first registered as an employer, or from their payroll software.

There are some circumstances where entering your client’s PAYE reference into the tool won’t necessarily provide their staging date:

  • Your client has brought forward their staging date and agreed this with us. If they’ve notified us that they intend to bring their staging date forward, these changes won’t be reflected in the dates returned by the tool.
  • Your client has set up in business after 1 April 2012. If this applies, you can find their staging date in table 1 below.
  • Since 1 April 2012 your client has changed or acquired a new PAYE reference. You will need to enter the old PAYE reference(s). If your client is a new employer entity, refer to the bullet point above.
  • Your client has certain types of staff but doesn’t have a PAYE scheme. In this case their staging date will be 1 April 2017.
  • Your client had fewer than 30 staff on 1 April 2012, had no staging date associated with their PAYE reference and they don’t fall into any other exception category. In this case their staging date will be 1 April 2017.

We will also write to all employers to confirm their staging date and it’s included in letters from us about automatic enrolment duties. If they don’t pay their staff through a PAYE scheme, their staging date will be 1 April 2017.

Guide to your client's staging date

Staging dates vary from employer to employer, depending on when they first took on a member of staff, and whether or not they use a PAYE scheme to pay them. The table below shows when staging dates fall depending on these factors:

When did your client first employ staff? When is their staging date?
On or before 1 April 2012, using a PAYE scheme to pay these staff On or before 1 April 2017
Between 2 April 2012 and 30 September 2017, using a PAYE scheme to pay these staff Between 1 May 2017 and 1 February 2018 - see Table 1 below
On or before 1 April 2017, but they don't use a PAYE scheme to pay these staff 1 April 2017

If your client became a new employer between 2 April 2017 and 30 September 2017, their duties may have started at a different time to those shown above. You should refer to our information on this group of employers to find out your client's duties start date in these cases.

What if my client became an employer between 1 April 2012 and 30 September 2017?

Employers paying PAYE income for the first time from 1 April 2012 to 30 September 2017 have a staging date between 1 May 2017 and 1 February 2018.

Table 1: staging dates for employers who set up after 1 April 2012

Date PAYE income first payable Staging date
Between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 1 May 2017
Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014 1 July 2017
Between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015 1 August 2017
Between 1 April 2015 and 31 December 2015 1 October 2017
Between 1 January 2016 and 30 September 2016 1 November 2017
Between 1 October 2016 and 30 June 2017 1 January 2018
Between 1 July 2017 and 30 September 2017 1 February 2018

If your client became a new employer between 2 April 2017 and 30 September 2017, their duties may have started on a different date to those shown above. Find out when duties apply for your client.

When do duties start for director-only organisations?

In the case of director-only companies, duties start to apply when a worker who is not a director and has a contract of employment starts working for the organisation.

Where an organisation has two directors - one with a contract of employment, and one without - they will not be classed as an employer and will not have duties under automatic enrolment.

The moment this organisation takes on a new member of staff that has a contract of employment, the organisation will be classed as an employer and duties will be triggered.

The duties start date in this case would be the date the director with the employment contract began employment. However, at that time the organisation was exempt from the duties and not classed as an employer, the duties are to be given effect from the date the second worker with the contract of employment started working for the organisation.

Other rules apply to director-only organisations - to find out more, please refer to our information on director exemptions from automatic enrolment.

What letters are sent to my clients from TPR?

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) sends out regular letters and emails to employers to support them with their automatic enrolment duties. You may find it useful to familiarise yourself with these, to help your clients understand what to do and by when.

These letters form a series of communications which will be sent to your clients during the automatic enrolment process, helping them to understand their duties and guiding them through what to do next.

Advanced guidance

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

  • Detailed guidance 2: Getting ready (PDF, 140kb, 37 pages)
    Section 2 contains detailed information on identifying staging dates, including how they are determined for those employers with small businesses who share a larger PAYE scheme with other employers. It also explains how staging dates are determined for employers with complex PAYE structures, or who belong to corporate groups.
  • Detailed guidance 8: Safeguarding individuals (PDF, 104kb, 17 pages)
    Read this guidance to support your clients in meeting their employer duties and safeguards which include stopping membership of qualifying schemes and unfair treatment of staff.
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