Auto enrolment staging dates explained

Auto enrolment staging dates explained

Get to grips with auto enrolment staging dates, including how to find out when yours will be, the actions you’ll need to take, and what to do if you miss it.

What is a staging date?

Your staging date is the date that your auto enrolment duties first come into effect, and will have been determined by the size of your largest PAYE scheme as of April 2012, if you were in business at that time. Companies created between April 2012 and September 2017 will have staging dates allocated to them that fall between May 2017 and February 2018.

With effect from 1st October 2017, auto enrolment duties of new companies will start at the same time as their PAYE duties.

In order to comply with auto enrolment legislation, you’ll need to be able to enrol all eligible employees into a workplace pension from your staging date going forwards.

When your staging date will be

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

You can also find out when your staging date will be using your PAYE reference.

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


If you don’t know your PAYE reference number, you should be able to find it:

  • On the letter sent to you by HMRC when you first registered as an employer
  • Through your payroll software

Different staging dates for different employers

Staging dates allow auto enrolment to be phased in gradually. Businesses that employ larger numbers of people will have been the first to stage for auto enrolment. Giving later staging dates to smaller businesses means that companies that are less likely to already have a pension scheme in place have more time to prepare for auto enrolment.

What to do if you’re close to your staging date

If you’ve decided that we’re the right provider for you and your staging date is less than six weeks away, get in touch with us as soon as you can to get it all set up in time. You’ll also need to contact The Pensions Regulator to keep them up to date with what’s happening.

Next steps if you’ve missed your staging date

If you’ve missed your staging date, it’s important to take action right away.

You have a legal duty to comply with auto enrolment regulations. If you don’t, you could be fined by The Pensions Regulator.

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

It’s worth noting that you may not be allowed to recover any backdated employee contributions from your employees’ pay, so you might have to pay their contributions as well as your own. In other words, the longer you leave it, the higher the cost could be to you. Make sure that you seek suitable advice if you don’t intend to pay the whole value of missed contributions yourself. You’ll 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, and your re-enrolment date will still work from your staging date rather than the date on which you complete the staging process. Find out more about auto enrolment rules, fines and penalties

How Aviva can help if you’ve missed your staging date

If you’ve missed your staging date, we can still set up a workplace pension scheme for you to start now, but we can’t backdate this to your staging date. We’ll work with you to get you back on track with auto enrolment, and you’ll have our full support throughout the process.

Auto enrolment software and late staging

Not all types of software will be suitable if you’re late for your staging date, so you’ll need to check with the software provider to find out if it’ll be fully functional.

What happens if you don’t take action

If you’re finding it hard to understand your auto enrolment duties, or you’ve been unable to comply for any reason, The Pensions Regulator can work with you to help – but it’s important to contact them as soon as possible.

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

Changing your staging date

It’s important to remember that you can’t push your staging date back – although you can postpone some of your duties by up to three months.

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

  • You’re part of a corporate group and share your PAYE scheme with other employers
  • There are people in your PAYE scheme who have already retired

Find out if postponement is right for you

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.

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