How to set up auto enrolment – Guide and FAQ for setting up your workplace pension scheme

The introduction of auto enrolment in the UK has transformed the landscape of workplace pensions, making it compulsory for employers to automatically enrol eligible employees into a pension scheme. This guide aims to simplify the process for businesses, providing a step-by-step approach for how to set up auto enrolment and answering frequently asked questions.


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Understanding auto enrolment

Auto enrolment mandates that all employers in the UK must enrol their eligible employees into a qualifying workplace pension scheme and contribute towards it. This initiative is designed to encourage more people to save for their retirement.

Eligibility criteria

Employees are eligible for auto enrolment if they:

  • Are aged between 22 and the State Pension age
  • Earn more than £10,000 per year (this figure is subject to annual reviews)
  • Work in the UK

Key data points for auto enrolment

For businesses navigating the complexities of auto enrolment, understanding the key data points is crucial. These figures help ensure compliance and inform decisions regarding pension contributions and employee eligibility. Here are the essential data points to keep in mind:

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1. Earnings threshold for eligibility

To be eligible for auto enrolment, an employee must earn more than £10,000 per year (as of the current threshold). This figure is subject to review and can change, so it’s important to stay updated.

2. Age range for eligibility

Employees aged between 22 and the State Pension age are eligible for auto enrolment. This ensures that those who are most likely to benefit from long-term savings are included.

3. Minimum contribution levels

The total minimum contribution to the pension scheme is set at 8% of an employee’s qualifying earnings, with at least 3% coming from the employer. The remaining contribution can come from the employee and tax relief.

4. Qualifying earnings band

Qualifying earnings include salary, wages, commission, bonuses, overtime, statutory sick pay, and statutory maternity, paternity, or adoption pay, between £6,240 and £50,270 per year (these figures are for the 2024/2025 tax year and may vary annually).

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5. Deadline for the declaration of compliance

Employers must complete and submit their declaration of compliance within five months of their auto enrolment start date. This is a critical legal requirement to confirm compliance with the auto enrolment duties.

6. Opt-out window

Employees have the right to opt out of the auto enrolment pension scheme within one month of being enrolled. Understanding this timeframe is important for managing the enrolment process and employee preferences.

7. Re-enrolment period

Every three years, employers must re-assess their staff and re-enrol certain employees who have previously opted out of the pension scheme. This ensures ongoing participation and compliance.

Keeping these key data points in mind will help employers navigate the auto enrolment process more effectively, ensuring compliance and providing valuable pension benefits to eligible employees. Regular updates and communications from the Pensions Regulator should be monitored to stay informed of any changes to these data points.

How to set up auto enrolment

How to set up auto enrolment

  1. Assess your workforce

    Identify which employees are eligible for auto enrolment. You’ll need to categorise your staff into eligible jobholders, non-eligible jobholders, and entitled workers based on their age and earnings.

  2. Choose a pension scheme

    Select a pension scheme that qualifies for auto enrolment. It should meet certain criteria set by the Pensions Regulator. Many businesses opt for master trust pension schemes, such as NEST (National Employment Savings Trust), which is designed for auto enrolment.

  3. Communicate with your employees

    You must inform all your employees about the auto enrolment process, including details about the scheme you’ve chosen and their rights. This communication must be in writing and can be distributed electronically or on paper.

  4. Automatically enrol eligible employees

    You need to automatically enrol eligible employees into the chosen pension scheme. This involves deducting contributions from their wages and paying these, along with your employer contributions, into the pension.

  5. Complete the declaration of compliance

    Within five months of your auto enrolment start date, you must complete and submit a declaration of compliance to the Pensions Regulator. This confirms that you have fulfilled your legal duties.

  6. Maintain records and manage opt-ins/outs

    Keep accurate records of your auto enrolment process, including details about enrolled employees and their contributions. You must also manage requests from employees who choose to opt in or opt out of the pension scheme.

Top 5 auto enrolment pension schemes available in the UK

When setting up auto enrolment for your employees, choosing the right pension scheme is critical. The UK offers a range of pension schemes suitable for auto enrolment, each with its own set of features, benefits, and investment options.

Here’s a look at five highly regarded auto enrolment pension schemes available in the UK, known for their reliability, performance, and compliance with regulatory standards.

1. NEST (National Employment Savings Trust)

NEST is a workplace pension scheme set up by the government, designed specifically for auto enrolment. It’s accessible to all employers and offers a wide range of investment options, including ethical and Sharia-compliant choices. NEST is known for its low charges and ease of use, making it a popular choice among many businesses.

2. The People’s Pension

The People’s Pension is a multi-employer pension scheme with a straightforward approach to auto enrolment. It offers flexible contribution options, three investment profiles tailored to different levels of risk appetite, and a range of additional resources to support both employers and employees. Its simplicity and competitive pricing structure make it a favoured option for many SMEs.

3. NOW: Pensions

NOW: Pensions is a UK-based provider offering a simple, low-cost pension scheme suitable for all sizes of businesses. It features a unique investment strategy and a straightforward fee structure. With a strong focus on delivering long-term pension growth, it’s an attractive option for employers looking for a hassle-free solution.

4. Royal London

Royal London offers a flexible pension scheme that can be tailored to fit the needs of both employers and employees. It provides a range of investment options, including sustainable funds, and is known for its comprehensive support services. Royal London’s scheme is designed to adapt to the changing regulatory and economic landscape, offering a robust solution for businesses.

5. Legal & General (L&G)

Legal & General provides a versatile workplace pension scheme that supports auto enrolment. It is designed to cater to the needs of both large and small businesses, offering a broad array of investment options, including index-tracking and multi-asset funds. L&G is recognised for its investment management expertise and commitment to customer service.

Choosing an auto enrolment pension scheme for your business

When selecting an auto enrolment pension scheme, it’s important to consider factors such as the scheme’s fees, investment performance, ease of administration, and the level of support provided.

Employers should also review the scheme’s communication resources to ensure they effectively engage employees in their pension savings.

Consulting with a financial advisor or conducting thorough research can help you choose the most suitable pension scheme for your business and employees.

FAQ for auto enrolment setup

What are the minimum contribution levels for auto enrolment?

The total minimum contribution is currently set at 8% of an employee’s qualifying earnings, with at least 3% coming from the employer.

Can employees opt out of auto enrolment?

Yes, employees can opt out within one month of being enrolled. If they do so, any contributions they have made will be refunded. Employees can also opt back in at a later date.

What if I don’t comply with auto enrolment regulations?

Failing to comply with auto enrolment regulations can result in fines and penalties from the Pensions Regulator. It’s crucial to adhere to the timelines and requirements.

How often do I need to reassess my workforce for auto enrolment?

You must reassess your workforce at every pay period to identify any changes in eligibility and every three years you must re-enrol certain employees who have opted out.

Can I use my existing pension scheme for auto enrolment?

You can use an existing pension scheme if it meets the auto enrolment criteria set by the Pensions Regulator.

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