8 min read | 20 September, 2021 By Nick Hardy
First introduced in 2012, pension auto-enrolment was set up to help people save for their retirement. UK employers are legally required to set up a workplace pension scheme, enroll their employees into this and contribute to their savings.
The Government created automatic enrolment to encourage people to save additional money for retirement, as the State Pension alone is a low amount to live on for most people.
The scheme has been highly successful and to date, 10 million people have been auto-enrolled and are now building nest-eggs with the help of their employers.
In this post, we look at employers’ legal obligations and the steps they need to take to enroll new and existing employees, and manage these as part of payroll administration.
Workplace pension schemes are subject to minimum regulatory and governance requirements. Employers must also contribute a set proportion of an employees’ salary to their pension pot.
Employers must enrol an employee into a workplace pension scheme if they meet the following criteria:
From the 6th April 2019 the minimum required contributions were amended by the government and now stand as follows:
Employee Tax Relief: 1%
Minimum Contributions: 8%
The amount an employer and employee pay into a workplace pension scheme may vary depending on which pension scheme you choose. However, by law, you and your staff have to pay a minimum amount into your scheme.
You will also need to factor other types of staff pay into your calculations. These include:
The Pensions Regulator provides a free online contributions calculator to help you work out your costs for each of your employees and there are also various payroll software systems available which are recognised by HMRC and which automate manual PAYE calculations and reporting.
If you are a new employer who is navigating pension auto-enrolment for the first time, there are various resources available including online tools provided by The Pension Regulator which very clearly sets out your obligations based on your business’s circumstances.
The Pensions Regulator is again the go-to resource for explaining your obligations as an employer and providing templates for all documents you need to manage auto-enrolment and comply with their regulations. There are four key steps which you will need to take:
If you are a sole trader with no other employees, you have no workplace pension obligations, however, if your business does grow and you do take on team members, this will change. As soon as you become a new employer, you will need to be ready to set up auto-enrolment as soon as your first employee starts work.
If a company has multiple, officially noted directors then the business is also exempt workplace pension obligations. This scenario is most common in family run businesses. From the government’s point of view, none of these staff members are classified as employees.
On the other hand, there is nothing to stop any of the directors from opting into a workplace pension scheme if they are in agreement that planning for their futures is a sensible idea.
Employees can choose to opt out of a workplace pension if they choose to do so. This is usually done via the completion of a form which is provided by an employer or their chosen pension provider. If an employee does choose to go down this route, you must provide them with the contact details for your company’s pension provider.
There’s a limited amount of time - known as the opt-out window - within which an employee can opt out of your workplace pension. Once auto-enrolled, an employee has one calendar month to opt-out and claim a refund on any pension contributions they have made.
The opt-out window begins either on the day you provide an employee with enrolment information or the day on which your pension provider gives them the term and conditions of the scheme, whichever is later.
A valid opt out notice includes:
The opt out notice must also contain the following statements, which give your employees more information about opting out and their rights as an employee:
As with all employee related documents, it’s important to carefully store all pension related paperwork and the easiest way of doing this is to use a dedicated HR management system like Breathe, which includes dedicated document management functionality.
These days, most businesses with employees will use payroll software to calculate salaries, NI and tax deductions and to file information about these online to HMRC. This is termed Real Time Information (RTI) and has been a legal requirement since 2013.
Using a system like Breathe alongside payroll software can not only simplify document management, it can also help you comply with GDPR rules regarding employee data as all employee information is stored securely in ISO 27001 certified data-centres. Data centres accredited to this level have often had millions of pounds invested in them to ensure all data is stored to the very highest level of security.
With many people moving jobs throughout their working careers, it can be hard for them to keep track the different pension schemes in which they have been enrolled by previous employers.
If you want to help a new or existing employee track down pension providers – even if they don’t have the contact details for the company – the government’s pension tracing service is a very useful resource which could help your people recover access to funds potentially worth thousands of pounds.
Although you’re under no legal obligation to help employees with access to pension pots provided by their former employers, it’s a nice gesture of support and if you use the tracing service yourself, you may even end up finding money you have forgotten about!