The Government’s pension reforms introduced numerous new pension rules from 2012. Prime amongst them is the necessity for an employer to contribute to a pension for their employees for the first time and also the introduction of automatic enrolment.

What does automatic enrolment actually mean?

Auto-enrolment (as it will be more commonly known) means that employees will be a member of their employer’s pension scheme unless they actively decide to opt-out. So those that choose to do nothing will stay as members. Additionally, people who opt-out will have to be re-enrolled every three years. Auto-enrolment is likely to significantly increase membership of pension schemes.

The automatic enrolment process

Regulations confirm when employers need to automatically enrol workers into a qualifying pension scheme - which depends on their size. The tables below show the exact date (known as the ‘staging date') by which employers must fulfil their responsibilities.

The employer must enrol all qualifying workers - broadly those between age 22 and state pension age who earn above £10,000. Employers can use a good quality private scheme, the new Government-sponsored NEST scheme, or a combination of the two, to fulfill their responsibilities.

Initially contributions need to be at least 2% of a certain band of earnings* with the employer paying at least 1%. From April 2018 this will increase to 5%, with at least 2% from the employer. Finally, from April 2019, 8% will need to be paid with at least 3% from the employer.

Other contribution rates may apply if you use a different definition of pensionable earnings rather than banded earnings.

*The band of earnings, in 2015/2016 earnings terms, are £5,824 to £42,385, and include basic pay, bonus, commission, overtime and statutory payments (such as sick pay and maternity pay).

Employers with 50 or more staff reached their “staging date” by April 2015 and should already have a scheme in place. Smaller employers must comply from a date depending on their number of staff - see the table below.

SMALL EMPLOYERS (less than 250 employees)

Employer size (by PAYE size)

Automatic Enrolment Staging Date




50 to 249

1 April 2014

1 April 2015

Test tranche for less than 30

1 June 2015

30 June 2015

30 to 49

1 August 2015

1 October 2015

Less than 30

1 January 2016

1 April 2017

Employers without PAYE schemes

1 April 2017


New Employers Apr 2012 to Mar 2013                    

1 May 2017


New Employers Apr 2013 to Mar 2014

1 July 2017


New Employers Apr 2014 to Mar 2015

1 August 2017


New Employers Apr 2015 to Dec 2015

1 October 2017


New Employers Jan 2016 to Sep 2016

1 November 2017


New Employers Oct 2016 to Jun 2017

1 January 2018


New Employers Jul 2017 to Sep 2017

1 February 2018


New Employers Oct 2017

Immediate Duty


Tax and legislation are liable to change. This information is based on Almary Green's current understanding of UK law and HM Revenue & Customs practise and legislation we believe may apply in the future.

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