Understand your obligations

The Government has created an employer responsibility to automatically enrol eligible jobholders into a qualifying pension plan, and to make contributions to it.

There are a number of employer obligations which are laid out in the Pension Act 2008. 

In our 'Basics' section we outline these. The following questions & answers section might help you understand these subjects in more depth.

Failure to comply with automatic enrolment and employee opt-in provisions is an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, or both.

Employers will have a duty to automatically enrol eligible jobholders between the ages of 22 and State Pension Age into a qualifying workplace pension plan.

Automatic enrolment means instead of choosing whether to join a workplace pension, all eligible jobholders will have to actively decide not to join e.g. if they feel this form of personal saving doesn't meet their needs.

You might be able to defer automatically enrolling eligible jobholders for up to three months from your staging date (the Deferral Date) by notifying all eligible jobholders of your intention to do so. The deferral date becomes the eligible jobholders' automatic enrolment date and contributions will begin from that date.

Every three years, from the plan's staging date, any eligible jobholders not already in a qualifying plan must be automatically re-enrolled into the plan. You have a 'window of flexibility' of six months (three months before and three months after the three year anniversary of the original automatic enrolment staging date) to bring forward or delay this process.

There are exemptions for people:

  • who've opted-out, or reduced contributions below the minimum required, less than 12 months before the re-enrolment date,
  • you've reasonable grounds to believe have primary, enhanced, fixed or individual protections from the HMRC Lifetime allowance. Following the 2023 Budget announcements you might want to discuss with any affected employees whether they wished to make further contributions to build up further pensions,
  • have given you notice that they’re leaving work.

Contributions are based on earnings which are at least equal to the qualifying earnings (currently between £6,240 and £50,270). Qualifying earnings are defined as salary, overtime, bonus, commission and statutory pay. 

The diagram below shows the entitlement of different groups of jobholders.

*All figures stated are based on the 2023/2024 tax year. The Government may change these figures each year.

  • The introduction of automatic enrolment may be deferred by up to three months by notifying all eligible jobholders or jobholders of the intention to do so. In this case, the employer's disclosure information mentioned above can be provided during the deferral period, or at the end of the deferral period.
  • By the end of the third month, all eligible jobholders must be automatic enrolled. Eligible jobholders are given one month to opt-out.
  • The first contribution will be deducted during month four (if a full three month waiting period is used).
  • Contributions deducted in the first three months of membership must be remitted to the plan by 19th of the fourth month following the staging date or the deferral date.

Jobholders can choose to opt-out by providing a valid opt-out notice to you within one month beginning from:

  • The later of the date that automatic enrolment information is provided by you, or active membership is created within an occupational money purchase plan; or
  • Where a personal pension plan is being used, the later of:
  • the date that automatic enrolment information is provided by you;
  • the date employees were provided with the terms and conditions about the plan.

Information on how to access the opt-out form must be sent to the employee at the appropriate times.

Find out more about opting out.

We can’t control what’s shown on any other websites

You'll have to notify us when an opt-out notice has been received and arrange to refund any contributions deducted from the jobholder within one month of receiving the notice.

A key requirement for employers is to provide information to their eligible jobholders about their pension plan. This communication needs to go to all eligible jobholders including:
  • Those who will be automatically enrolled.
    You'll have to provide prescribed information to eligible jobholders about the automatic enrolment plan within six weeks of the automatic enrolment date. This should inform these individuals that they have been automatically enrolled into a qualifying pension plan, give them information on how to opt-out, and minimum contribution levels.
  • Those who are existing members of a qualifying pension plan.
    You'll have to provide prescribed information to active members of a qualifying pension plan within two months of the automatic enrolment date. It should detail that they are not affected by the changes. If current contributions need to increase to minimum levels, this will also need to be communicated.
  • Those who are not going to be enrolled.
    Non-eligible jobholders can opt-in to pensions saving and entitled jobholders have the right to join. You must provide prescribed information to those who are not going to be enrolled about how they can opt in or join, within six weeks of assessing their jobholder status.

Where we've agreed to support your plan through automatic enrolment or qualification, we've created templates to help you communicate to your jobholders.


Various types of plan can be used as a qualifying pension plan. If you want to continue using your existing pension plan, you need to check that it meets the qualifying criteria. Note that different plans may be used for different jobholders. This is also subject to us accepting your plan for qualifying purposes.

If an existing plan is used for qualifying purposes, you will also need to consider how you'll automatically enrol eligible job holders into another plan. We might be able to offer another scheme for automatic enrolment.

Please contact us for more details.

Alternatively, you may use the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) to meet your obligations. NEST has a public service obligation to accept any employer of any size.

To find out if your current plan will meet the qualifying criteria, visit The Pension Regulator's website and use their online tool.

Find out how we can help with qualification.

Because of the significant numbers of employers affected by the rules, employers were staged in over a five year period between October 2012 and April 2017, with larger employers being staged first.

Your staging date was based on the size of your workforce under PAYE at 1 April 2012.

The Pensions Regulator will have notified you of your staging date 12 months before this date, with a reminder three months before.

New employers set up between 1 April 2012 and 30 September 2017 will have later staging dates ranging from 1 May 2017 to 1 February 2018, depending on when the first payment was made via the PAYE system.   

For new employers set up after 1st October 2017, even if it is just one person, the legal auto enrolment duties will commence on the day that the first employee starts work. This is known as the Duties Start Date.

To minimise the financial burden on your business, the increases to the minimum contribution levels were phased in over a six year period (the transitional period).

Minimum contributions based on qualifying earnings are currently:

Time Employer minimum contribution Total minimum contribution Pensionable Pay on which contributions are based

6 April 2019 


3% 8% Qualifying earnings

It can be difficult to calculate earnings levels and contributions accurately, especially if earnings are variable. To deal with this, it is possible for an employer to 'self-certify' their plan into one of three arrangements. These alternative arrangement contributions were also 'phased in' to April 2019.

The current contribution rates for these three alternative tiers are set out below:

Tier of 


Time Employer minimum contribution  Total minimum contribution  Pensionable Pay on which contributions are based

Alternative set 


6 April 2019 onwards 4% 9% At least equal to Basic Pay

Alternative set 


6 April 2019 onwards 3% 8%  At least equal to Basic Pay and are at least 85% of total earnings

Alternative set 


6 April 2019 onwards 3% 7% Jobholders pay (all pay elements)
  • plan certification period can last up to 12 months and you may use certification for the whole plan or groups of members.
  • In addition to choosing a certification method, these contributions can also be phased in over the transitional period.
  • Where a certification method is used, this must be in place from the staging date, although contributions will still be due from the deferral date.

Find out more about certification

We can’t control what’s shown on any other websites


  • Within five months of the staging date, or two months of the automatic re-enrolment date, you'll have to provide information online via a declaration of compliance to The Pensions Regulator. Within this you'll need to evidence how you have met your duties, including information on the plans you're using.
  • You'll also have to maintain records of the plans used to meet your obligations, details of automatically enrolled jobholders (including those that subsequently opted out) and voluntary joiners.
  • Most of these records must be kept for a minimum of six years, with the exception of those relating to opt-outs, which must be kept for four years.

Find out more about record keeping

We can’t control what’s shown on any other websites

  • Eligible jobholders have a right not to suffer detriment in their employment as a result of the new pension provisions and may take cases to an employment tribunal if they do.
  • Arrangements made between the employer and jobholder to prevent the operation of the legislation will be void and unenforceable.

If an existing plan is used for qualifying purposes, you will also need to consider how you will automatically enrol eligible job holders into this, or another plan. Some of our plans may be used for automatic enrolment.

Please contact us for more details.

  • NEST is a trust based money purchase plan for non-associated employers (this is a Master Trust).
  • It is open to all employers and has been designed to offer simple, low cost pension provision.
  • Although NEST will generally be subject to the same legal requirements as other occupational pension plans, certain differences will apply, in particular:
  • It will accept all employers who want to use it.
  • It will offer the same low charge to members, regardless of whether they work for a small, medium or large employer.
  • It will ensure employer and member representation. As NEST is such a large and diverse plan it does not have traditional member-nominated trustees but employer and member panels.

Next steps

Make an enquiry using our secure online mailing service.

More information

Automatic enrolment & qualifying workplace pensions

Every employer with at least one employee has a duty to automatically enrol their employees into a workplace pension scheme, and to pay contributions at least equal to minimum levels set by the Government in respect of these employees.

Would you like to use your Prudential plan for qualifying purposes?

If you would like your plan to qualify under the rules, we may be able to help you, but you will need to let us know six months before your staging date.


There's a lot to do, our checklist could help you.


Jargon buster

Bite-sized explanations of terms used.

Prudential Corporate Pensions Trustee Limited (PCPTL)

To make sure we offer customers value for money, like all who offer workplace contract-based plans, we answer to an independent group called the PCPTL.

The basics

Answers to common questions about automatic enrolment.

Things to think about

The rules are now in place and there are a number of issues you will need to consider to practically implement the regulations.


Better workplace pensions - we're here to help

On the 6th April 2015, the Government introduced additional requirements for workplace pensions.

Contact us

If you are an Employer and want to discuss how we can work together or to find out more details about our corporate solutions, please contact us.