Auto enrolment compliant in eight simple steps

Auto enrolment can seem complicated, especially if you’re new to the world of workplace pensions. But it doesn’t have to be a challenge. We’ve created this simple eight-step guide to help you navigate auto enrolment, explaining what you need to do and when, from setting up your scheme to duties start dates and beyond.

Step one: Find out what you need to do, and decide who'll do it

When? As soon as possible.

If you’re a new employer, your workplace pension needs to start on the same date as your first employment contract. This is known as your ‘duties start date’. You’ll need to have your scheme in place on that date. You’ll also need to assess your workforce to see who you need to enrol into the scheme.

As soon as you know you’re going to have auto enrolment duties, you can nominate a contact with The Pensions Regulator. The person you nominate will receive useful emails to help make sure you meet your duties on time. You need to make sure that you and anyone else who will be helping you with them understand your auto-enrolment duties before they start.

Step two: Set up your workplace pension scheme 

When? Ideally, two months before your duties start date.

You’ll need to think about:

  • Who to choose as a provider – and whether they’ll help you with auto enrolment
  • What payroll software you’ll need, and who will provide it
  • How much you’ll contribute to your employees’ pensions

Once you’ve decided which pension provider or providers to approach, you’ll need to get a quote and – when you’re happy with this – apply to set up your scheme.

When you choose your payroll software, think about what you want it to do for you. To be compliant with auto enrolment legislation, it needs to be able to assess your workforce, calculate contributions, send communications to your employees and keep records. Having software with the functionality to complete all of these tasks will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Step three: Assess who’s eligible to be enrolled 

When? In time for your duties start date.

To meet your auto enrolment duties, you need to assess your workforce, so you know who’s eligible for your workplace pension scheme.

To do this, you’ll need to look at:

  • How much each member of staff earns.
  • How old they are. 

The table below shows the three different categories your employees might fall into, and what your responsibilities are for each. The details shown are for the 2024/2025 tax year.

Annual salary 16 to 21 22 to state pension age State pension age to 74
£6,240 and below Entitled worker
Must be enrolled if they ask. You’re not obliged to contribute to their pension pot, but you can if you would like to.
Over £6,240 but no more than £10,000 Non-eligible jobholder
Must be enrolled if they ask, and you must contribute to their pension pot.
£10,000 and over Non-eligible jobholder Eligible jobholder
Must be auto-enrolled, and you must contribute to their pension pot.
Non-eligible jobholder

What if I’m not ready to enrol everyone?

You can put off assessing some or all your workforce for a period of up to three months. This is known as postponement.

Your duties start date doesn’t change if you use postponement. It simply means you’re doing their assessment a little later. You might choose to use postponement if:

  • You have staff on temporary contracts.
  • If you employ short-term, zero-hour or other staff who aren’t on regular hours or incomes, you’ll still have to assess them each time you pay them.
  • You have staff whose earnings fluctuate.
  • Your new starters have to pass a probationary period – this must be no longer than three months.
  • You’d like to avoid having to calculate and pay pension contributions for part of a pay period.

If you opt to use postponement, you’ll need to let your staff know and tell them how it will affect them

Step four: Enrol staff onto your scheme

When? On your duties start date – or up to three months later if you’re using postponement.

Any employees that you assessed as being eligible jobholders will need to be auto enrolled into your workplace pension.

With Aviva, this step is easy. All you need to do is upload a file using our online scheme management system. We’ll then enrol those employees into your pension scheme and send them a welcome pack.

Employees assessed as non-eligible jobholders or entitled workers don’t have to be auto enrolled, but they can ask to join your scheme. You’ll need to write to them to explain this within six weeks of your duties start date – we’ve covered this in step five.

Work out what your contributions will be 

You’ll need to work out what auto enrolment contributions both yourself and your employees need to make, then send this information to your provider. If you’ve chosen Aviva, you’ll do this using our online scheme management system. We’ll make this easier for you by providing full support and training. Choosing the right payroll software can also simplify your task, by calculating the correct contribution amounts for you.

Step five: Write to your staff

When? Within six weeks after your duties start date.

Once you’ve assessed which of your staff are eligible for the scheme, you’re required by law to write to each of them individually to explain how auto enrolment will affect them. You also need to tell them how your chosen workplace pension scheme works.

You can do this by letter or email. If you’ve chosen Aviva’s workplace pension, you need to do this before you let us know the details of employees who will be joining the scheme. This is important because it affects the date on which employees can choose to opt out.

Your payroll provider might offer software that can produce this communication for you.

Step six: Declare your compliance

When? Within five months of your duties start date.

You have to complete a declaration of compliance form no later than five months after your duties start date. This will let the regulator know how you’ve met your legal duties. You could be fined if you don’t complete the declaration on time, or if the information you submit is incorrect.

You can get the form from The Pension Regulator’s website, where you can also view a checklist of all the information you need and where to find it.

Step seven: Perform your regular duties

When? Every time you pay your staff

Once your auto enrolment duties have started, they don’t stop. In fact, you’ll need to go through steps three to six for as long as you continue to employ people. You’ll need to:

Assess your staff (every pay period)

Every time you pay an employee who you haven’t had to auto enrol before (including new staff), you’ll need to assess them – just like you did on your duties start date. If any employees have become eligible jobholders, you’ll then need to either auto enrol them into your scheme or use postponement for them.

Deal with employees who opt out of your scheme 

Any member of staff who has been auto enrolled onto your scheme can choose to leave it within one month of being enrolled. This is known as opting out.

If this happens, you’ll need to do the following within one month of their request:

  • Remove them from your scheme.
  • Stop taking contributions from their pay.
  • Arrange a full refund of what they’ve paid to date. 

If they ask to leave the scheme more than one month after auto enrolment, any payments already made will remain in the pension plan.

Make regular pension contributions

Every time you pay your staff, you’ll need to make contributions into eligible scheme members’ pensions. This includes any contributions you've agreed to make for entitled workers or any other employees covered by contractual joining. In most cases, of course, your employees themselves will also have to contribute. 

Keep accurate records

You’ll need to keep records of how you’ve met your legal duties, including:

  • The names and addresses of the members you’ve enrolled onto your pension scheme
  • When money was paid into your pension scheme
  • Any requests to join or leave your pension scheme
  • Your pension scheme reference number

You’re required to record this information by law, and you must keep these records for six years. Requests to leave the pension scheme only need to be kept for four years.

Step eight: Don’t forget re-certification and re-enrolment

When? Ongoing

As well as the regular tasks you’ll need to perform, you need to re-enrol opted-out members of staff every three years. You may also need to re-certify your compliance every 18 months.

Automatic re-enrolment – every three years

Every three years, you’ll need to repeat some of the actions you performed on your duties start date. This is because you have to put previously opted-out eligible jobholders back onto your scheme – even though they’re free to opt out again.

This process is known as automatic re-enrolment. Your re-enrolment date is normally your duties start date plus three years – but, if you prefer, you can choose a date three months either side of this anniversary. Once your chosen re-enrolment date arrives, you’ll need to re-assess all of your affected employees and re-enrol the eligible jobholders within six weeks.

Re-certify – at least every 18 months

If you’re calculating your pension contributions based on something other than qualifying earnings, you’ll need to complete a certificate at least every 18 months. This is to tell The Pensions Regulator that you’re paying at least the minimum contribution levels required by law.

Find out more about auto enrolment

Auto enrolment doesn’t have to be challenging. We’ve got all the information you need to get up and running with your workplace pension scheme.

Aviva Workplace Pension

Our workplace pension is designed to give you a scheme that’s easy to set up and administer, ideal for your auto enrolment needs.

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