Automatic enrolment is affecting all employers across the UK. Get ready to help your clients

Automatic Enrolment

Employers are likely to look to their trusted advisers to help them in fulfilling their automatic enrolment duties, and it's not just about pensions – automatic enrolment will impact upon most areas of your clients' businesses. The Pensions Regulator provides a range of information and resources for employers about all aspects of automatic enrolment, which will be useful when you're helping your clients with their preparations. 


The staging date is a key piece of information when planning ahead for automatic enrolment. Once this is known, you can work back from this date to plan what preparations need to be made and when. An employer's staging date is determined by the number of persons in the largest Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme that they use, based on the latest data from HM Revenue and Customs held by The Pensions Regulator on 1 April 2012. The Pensions Regulator will write to all employers to confirm their staging date but you can look up a client's staging date by entering the reference of their largest PAYE scheme into their online tool. Please be aware though that there are some exceptions. 

  • Staging date timeline - useful if you need to look up staging dates for multiple clients. Also contains important information about staging dates for those clients who have fewer than 50 employees but share a larger PAYE scheme.
  • Bringing your staging date forward - information on bringing a staging date forward, which all employers are entitled to do.
  • Getting ready - detailed information on identifying staging dates, including how they are determined for those clients 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. 


Whatever your level of involvement, you'll need to understand the different types of worker and what defines them, as well as the corresponding employer duties for each type of worker. Some types of contracts will require close examination to identify where the employer duties lie eg for agency workers or contractors. Making the assessment of a worker is a process that could be automated, e.g. through payroll, but The Pensions Regulator has provided links to resources explaining how to make the assessment manually through other processes if this is something you'll be involved in, either in an advisory or active capacity. 

  • The different types of worker - a summary diagram of the worker categories and earnings levels.
  • Employer duties and defining the workforce - how to identify the different types of workers and the duties that apply to each category.
  • A detailed look at assessing your workforce - webinar on the different types of worker and the employer duties for each.
  • Assessing the workforce - a detailed explanation of how and when to assess a worker's age earnings and place of work to identify which category of worker they are. Includes working outside the UK and cross-border requirements. Most of the functions in this guidance could be automated by business software, but it will be helpful to understand the principles behind the assessment. 


Many of the functions necessary to comply with automatic enrolment duties are process-driven. Business software, e.g. payroll, HR and pensions administration could be set up to automate the majority of these processes, such as monitoring ages and earnings of workers and deducting pension contributions. If you manage payroll for your clients, check with the provider when the system will be ready to handle the requirements of automatic enrolment. If it won't be ready, or the functionality isn't going to be made available in time, you may wish to consider an additional software package that will perform the required tasks and integrate into your payroll software. 

  • Assessing the workforce - a detailed look at how to make an assessment of a worker to identify worker category. Most of the processes explained here can be automated by business software.
  • Automatic enrolment  - understand the automatic enrolment process, including what information is needed to automatically enrol a worker.
  • Opting in, joining and contractual enrolment - make sure you have the correct procedures in place in case a worker asks to opt into or join a pension scheme.
  • Opting out - how to process opt-out requests from workers who want to leave a scheme.
  • How to automatically enrol your staff - an overview of the automatic enrolment process.
  • Automatic enrolment duties and common myths for payroll professionals - a webinar explaining about pay reference periods vs. pay frequency, processes such as opting out, and common myths within each part of the process.
  • Guidance for software developers - Whilst this isn't a resource for advisers or administrators, if you're talking to your business software providers about having the functionality in place to support automatic enrolment, you could direct them to this content. This guide shows how to update products to automate some or all of the processes necessary to manage automatic enrolment. 


Your client may ask you to assist in a number of ways in relation to the pension scheme they are proposing to use for automatic enrolment. The three main areas are listed below.


Clients with existing pension schemes may want to use them for automatic enrolment. These schemes will need to meet certain criteria, which could involve changing the scheme rules or terms and conditions. You'll need to understand how the new legislation fits with existing pension arrangements, such as salary exchange or contractual enrolment. 

  • Does your existing scheme qualify? - a tool to help you assess whether an existing DC scheme is a qualifying scheme, and also whether it can be used for automatic enrolment.
  • Reviewing your pension arrangements - a practical webinar, which also explains qualifying schemes, includes help for employers in the public sector.
  • Contractual versus automatic enrolment - a summary of the key differences and how to fit contractual enrolment with the new duties.
  • Pension schemes - the minimum requirements for schemes to qualify and to be used for automatic enrolment, plus details on certification and use of schemes based outside the UK. 


Many employers will be setting up new schemes and may need your help to identify a qualifying scheme that's right for their business and which also produces a good outcome for its members.


A specific process must be followed to enrol jobholders into the chosen scheme. Once active membership has been achieved, there are ongoing responsibilities that you may be involved in, such as ensuring contributions are paid on time and that any opt-out or opt-in notices are processed and accurate records maintained. 

  • Automatic enrolment  - an explanation of the automatic enrolment process. Employers must also follow the automatic enrolment process for anyone who asks to opt in.
  • Opting in, joining and contractual enrolment - the opt-in process and how contractual enrolment fits with the new legislation.
  • Phasing - the minimum contribution amounts will be introduced gradually over six years.
  • Keeping records - both the employer and the pension scheme must, by law, keep certain records. This guidance lists the records that must be kept and for how long. 


There is a range of information that employers are required to provide to their workers. You may be asked for help with this, such as providing them with financial information about the contributions they and/or their employer will be making towards their pension. Some information must be sent individually to each worker. HR professionals in particular are likely to be closely involved in communicating with workers about how automatic enrolment affects them, as well as making sure the right person gets the right information at the right time, e.g. if they change worker category. The Pensions Regulator provide a number of letter templates and guidance as to how the information must be provided. Some employers may want to raise general awareness among their workforce about automatic enrolment, their poster templates, articles and other sample materials can help with this. 

  • Information to workers - a quick guide to what information must be provided to what type of worker at which time, with links to where to find more information.
  • Writing to workers about automatic enrolment - letter templates to help your clients when sending out compulsory communications to their workers.
  • Explaining automatic enrolment to workers - customisable resources to help employers raise general awareness about automatic enrolment among their workforce.
  • Talking to your employees about pensions - a guide for employers on how they can explain pensions to their workers with answers to common questions to help.
  • Communicating with workers and enrolling eligible jobholders - a webinar giving an overview of the information requirements with practical help in understanding the process to aid compliance.
  • Having completed the assessment - next steps once the worker category has been identified, with links to letter templates for providing certain compulsory information to employees.
  • Postponement - you may be responsible for communicating with workers whose automatic enrolment has been postponed.
  • Transitional period for DB schemes - some employers with DB schemes may want to use the transitional period, which delays automatic enrolment for certain eligible jobholders who meet the necessary conditions. The employer must notify these eligible jobholders that they are using the transitional period. Any employer considering using the transitional period should note the written Ministerial Statement laid in Parliament on 19 December 2012. 


The Pensions Regulator will enforce non-compliance by issuing statutory notices and fixed or escalating penalties. You can help your clients avoid this by understanding the compliance requirements, one of which is for the employer and the pension scheme to keep certain records. Responsibility for complying with the duties ultimately lies with the employer, but if you're an adviser, there are third party compliance obligations which you must be aware of when carrying out these activities on behalf of your clients. 

  • Keeping records - there are certain records that must be kept by law, by both the employer and the pension scheme, as proof of compliance.
  • Employer duties and safeguards - at-a-glance summary of the key duties and safeguards that are in place to protect workers.
  • Safeguarding individuals - some of the safeguards came into effect from 1 July 2012, so all employers must be compliant now and not just from their staging date - make sure your clients are aware of this.
  • Main steps to automatic enrolment - an overview of what your clients need to do to comply, with links to information and resources that help with each step.
  • Employer duties: our regulatory approach - summary of the compliance and enforcement strategy outlining The Pensions Regulator's regulatory approach and legal powers.
  • Compliance and enforcement - learn about The Pension Regulator's approach to minimising non-compliance with automatic enrolment, and how they will enforce deliberate non-compliance. 


All employers are required to submit a declaration of compliance with The Pensions Regulator, to tell them what they have done to comply with their automatic enrolment duties. Employers have four months from their staging date to complete a declaration of compliance. The duty to complete a declaration of compliance lies with the employer, but they are able to authorise someone to do this on their behalf. Their online declaration of compliance service allows you to act on behalf of one or multiple employers.