Auto enrolment: our top five frequently asked questions

26 April 2019



We look at auto enrolment (AE) in the latest in our series of top five FAQs on pensions technical topics.

1. If a company has three directors and no other employees, do they need to set up an AE scheme?

They can choose whether to apply the AE duties or not.  So, they don’t need to set up a scheme.  All the other duties and safeguards will apply as usual. 

There’s more information on this exemption in paragraphs 107-109 of the AE detailed guidance and in technical central.

2. Does a non-UK employer have any duties in respect of employees in the UK?

If the contract of employment places the employee in the UK, the employer will have to assess that employee even if the employer is based overseas. 

There is more information on assessing a worker in the AE detailed guidance.

3. What are the options if an employee is affected by the tapered annual allowance, and the total contributions to the AE scheme are greater than their available annual allowance for the current year?

There are three main options:

  • The contributions can continue as expected and the employee pays any annual allowance tax charge due.  However, there could be unused annual allowance from a previous tax year which could reduce or eliminate any tax charge.
  • The scheme could switch to a definition of qualifying earnings for this member. This would allow the employee to continue being a member of the AE scheme but contributions would be below the tapered annual allowance therefore avoiding a charge.  The employee could negotiate further salary or bonus in exchange.
  • Contributions could be restricted to the available annual allowance therefore avoiding any annual allowance tax charge. This could mean the member has to cease membership of the AE scheme if contributions were below the AE minimum.  The contributions could be made to another scheme or another non-AE section within the same scheme.  Again, the employee could negotiate further salary or bonus in exchange.

4. If an employee is an entitled worker, does the employer need to contribute if the employee wants to join a scheme?

No. The employer doesn’t need to contribute but many do. The employer does however have a duty to choose a pension scheme the entitled worker can join. This doesn’t have to be an AE scheme but the employer does have to deduct contributions on behalf of the entitled worker and pay these into the scheme.

5. What happens to AE pension contributions during parental leave?

If a member of an AE scheme goes on parental leave, they can continue to pay contributions during their parental leave. During the period of paid parental leave, individual contributions will be based on the actual earnings the individual is receiving. Employer contributions will be based on the level of earnings immediately before parental leave.

Want to know more?

You can find out more about auto enrolment in technical central.



About the author

Fiona Hanrahan

Pensions Development and Technical manager

Fiona has worked in financial services since leaving the University of St Andrews in 1998. She has worked mainly in technical roles although has also worked as a Chartered Financial Planner. She has worked for Royal London since 2015. Fiona is involved in developing adviser facing content, presenting, writing articles and commenting for the press. Fiona is a fellow of the Personal Finance Society and has an MBA from the Open University. She is also the current president of the Insurance Society of Edinburgh. Fiona has young twins who take up most of her spare time although she likes visiting new cities, going to the cinema and keeping fit.

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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.