Auto enrolment staging dates explained

What is a “staging date”?

The date that your automatic enrolment duties will first come into effect is known as your ‘staging date’ – your staging date will have been determined by the size of your largest PAYE scheme as of April 2012. Businesses who employ larger numbers of people will have been the first companies to stage for auto-enrolment.

To be in line with auto-enrolment legislation, you will need to be able to enrol any eligible employees into a workplace pension scheme from your staging date going forwards.

When is my staging date?

You should have received a letter from The Pensions Regulator which tells you when your staging date will be. If you have more than one PAYE scheme, you will usually use the staging date of the company that stages first.

If you still need to find out your staging date, you can find out using your PAYE reference.

What is your PAYE reference number? (Example: 123 / AB45678)


If you do not know your PAYE reference, you should be able to find this:

  1. In the letter sent to you by HMRC when you first registered as an employer.
  2. Through your payroll software.

I don’t use a PAYE scheme. How do I know when my staging date will be?

If you’re an employer who doesn’t pay employees through a PAYE scheme, your staging date will be 1st April 2017.

Why are there different staging dates for different employers?

Staging dates allow auto-enrolment to be phased in gradually. By giving later staging dates to smaller employers, it means that companies who are less likely to already have a pension scheme in place have more time to prepare for auto-enrolment.

I’m getting very close to my staging date. What should I do?

You may feel as if your staging date is approaching fast and you don’t have enough time to prepare for auto-enrolment. If you decide we’re the right provider for you, contact us as soon as possible to get the set-up process moving. You will also need to talk to The Pensions Regulator to let them know what has happened and what you are doing about it.

I’ve missed my staging date. What are my next steps?

If you've missed your staging date or it's coming soon, you should take action straight away.

You have a legal duty to comply with the auto-enrolment regulations, and if you don't then you could be fined by The Pensions Regulator.

Here’s what to do:

If you don't already have a workplace pension scheme that's suitable for auto-enrolment, you'll need to set one up and automatically enrol any staff who are eligible into it. You'll also have to pay any pension contributions you owe, dating back to your staging date.

One thing to note is that you may not be allowed to deduct any backdated contributions from your staff, so you may end up having to pay their contributions as well as your own. In other words, the longer you leave things, the greater the cost could be to you.

You will also need to understand how your duties work if you’ve staged late. Opt-outs will still work from the point at which the opt-out window opens. Your re-enrolment date will still work from your staging date, not from the date on which you complete the staging process.

How can Aviva help if I’ve missed my staging date?

If you have missed your staging date, we can still set up a pension scheme for you to start now - but we can't backdate this to your staging date.

You'll have our full support to help you get back on track.

Will my auto-enrolment software still be suitable if I’m late for my staging date?

Not all types of auto-enrolment software will be suitable if you’re late for your staging date. You’ll need to check with the software provider that it will still be fully functional if you’ve missed your staging date. Aviva’s auto enrolment software, AME, would not be available to you if you’ve staged late because it could not adjust to the timing of your various duties to be in line with a late staging date.

What will happen if I don't take action?

If you're finding it hard to understand your duties or you have been unable to comply, The Pensions Regulator will usually work with you to help you.

If you don’t start to take steps to comply with auto-enrolment regulations, The Pensions Regulator is more likely to take action against you and may fine you. Find out more about what happens if you don't comply.

Can I change my staging date?

It’s important to remember that you can’t put a staging date back (although you can postpone some of your duties by up to three months). Find out if postponement’s right for you.

However, if you employed less than 50 people as of 1 April 2012, you may be able to move your staging date back if: