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Not every employee will want to be in Auto Enrolment, for example they may have their own pension arrangements.
But be very careful that you don’t induce or encourage them to opt out.
Most employees will want to be IN
Once staff have been enrolled into the pension scheme, they have one calendar month during which they can opt out and get a full refund of any contributions. This is known as the ‘opt-out period’. It starts from the whichever date is the later of:
- the date active membership was achieved, or
- the date they received your letter with the enrolment information.
Staff can’t opt out before the opt-out period starts or after it ends. If they decide to leave the scheme outside this period, they will instead be ‘ceasing active membership’. Whether they get a refund of contributions will depend on the pension scheme rules.
Staff opt out by giving you an ‘opt-out notice’. The opt-out notice is provided by the pension scheme. This is to avoid any employer involvement in the decision to opt out, which could lead to a breach of the law.
If an employer does anything to encourage or induce an employee or potential employee (at interview) to opt out they will be subject to harsh penalties.
If an employee does Opt Out they will be re-enrolled every 3 years.
You can choose to postpone automatic enrolment for up to three months for some or all of your staff. You must write to your staff to tell them you’re postponing automatic enrolment for them. One of the times you can postpone is from your staging date.
- You can postpone automatic enrolment for up to three months from certain dates.
- If you postpone from your staging date, your staging date does not change.
- If you choose to postpone from your staging date, you must write to tell the staff who will be postponed within six weeks of your staging date.
- Its unlikely that your payroll processing period will match your staging date, most staging dates are the 1st of the month but many payrolls are weekly, it makes sense to start auto enrolment on a pay processing date
- If you have short term staff or you are a temp agency you will probably postpone in order to avoid unnecessarily assessing staff who will leave within the postponement period
- You may also postpone to reduce auto enrolment pension payments and admin
- You can choose any business reason
When can you postpone?
You can only postpone automatic enrolment from:
- your staging date
- a staff member’s first day of employment
- the date a staff member first becomes eligible for automatic enrolment.
If you postpone from your staging date, it doesn’t change your staging date.
Staff whose automatic enrolment you’ve postponed can choose to opt in to your pension scheme during the postponement period.
The Pension Regulator has further details
Don’t mess this up, if you don’t get postponement right…..
- You will get a Warning
- Followed by a penalty of £400
- Followed by fines of £500 to £2,500 per day (depending on the number of employees)
Even the smallest business will get fines of £50 per day!
You will initially be given a warning, which will be followed by a fixed penalty of £400. Not too severe so far, but then the penalties shoot up for those companies who still fail to comply.
If you employ between 50 and 249 employees the fine for on-going non-compliance is a whopping £2,500 per day. For businesses with fewer employees, between five and 49 the penalty is still £500 per day and even the smallest of businesses will be fined £50 per day.
Your staging date is the date the new duties come into force for your business. It’s the date from when automatic enrolment activities must become ‘business as usual’, just like real-time PAYE.
Auto Enrolment isn’t easy, there is a lot to do before you Stage, here is a checklist (Pension Regulator) of activities you should do 6 months before Staging
- You can change your staging date to a later date if you:
- had fewer than 50 staff on 1 April 2012, and
- had, or were part of, a PAYE scheme that has more than 50 people in it.
All employers are able to bring their staging date forward. You may choose to do this to align it with other business practices, like the start of your financial year.
Or you might have several employers in a corporate group and want to align the smaller employers’ staging dates with the largest. If you plan to do this, you must notify The Pensions Regulator, which you can do online.
You can postpone assessing your workforce for up to 3 months, but this does not change your staging date and staff can choose to opt in during the postponement period.
A survey by AutoenrolSME found that 6 out 10 businesses can’t cope with the preparation for Auto Enrolment and hired additional staff to manage the process!
A Poll in April 2014 of 200 businesses with 62 to 249 employees found:
63% of the employers didn’t know when their staging date was!
New research*, from workplace pensions provider NOW: Pensions reveals that four in ten (44%) small and medium sized companies haven’t given any thought to how they’ll go about finding a pension scheme to comply with the new auto enrolment legislation. But, a significant proportion, (14%) intend to get help from their accountant.
Of the 450 small and medium sized firms surveyed 5% are going to consult an IFA, 4% are going to search the market and do the research themselves. Only 2% have already made a decision and secured a scheme.
Over a fifth (22%) intend to use their existing pension provider for auto enrolment. This comes despite growing concern that some providers will not support smaller employers’ auto enrolment needs.
Despite a large proportion of SMEs admitting they are yet to think about their pension scheme, over half (57%) of firms surveyed think that their choice of pension provider is either important (33%) or very important (24%). Only 8% think it is unimportant.
Four in ten (40%) believe offering a good quality pension scheme will help with employee retention and nearly a third (32%) think it will help to improve the attractiveness of their company to potential employees.
Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions continues: “As auto enrolment gathers pace, accountants will play a key role in guiding small and medium sized companies through the complexities of the legislation. For those accountants that manage payroll, auto enrolment is unavoidable so getting to grips with it sooner rather than later is a must.”
Stephen Milne Chair of the CIMA Members in Practice Panel said: “With over 10,000 employers auto enrolling each month, support for SMEs is inevitably in short supply. Accountants are ideally placed to provide much needed help with the process from scheme selection to assessment and implementation.”
Through Business Accountant, a service provided by CIMA Members in Practice, companies facing auto enrolment can book a local CIMA Member in Practice by calling: 023 8064 3763.
*Research undertaken by BDRC Continental, an award-winning insight agency. Questions were put to 450 UK SMEs (up to and including 250 employees) via BDRC Continental’s monthly Business Opinion Omnibus. Telephone-based interviews with a nationally representative sample of senior financial decision makers across the UK, weighted by size, region and sector. Fieldwork dates 3rd to 13th March 2014
**Research conducted online with 264 advisers by Defaqto between 25th November and 5th December 2013.