Phasing

Auto-enrolment and phasing of contribution increases

Auto-enrolment was introduced by the government to encourage employees to save more for their future in a workplace pension scheme.  

A workplace pension is separate from the State Pension which is £8,296.60 a year or £159.55 a week in tax year 2017/18. (Based on someone reaching state pension age on or after 6 April 2016 with a full National Insurance record).

To enjoy a comfortable retirement it’s likely employees will need more than the State Pension.  For an employee, active membership of an auto-enrolment scheme with their employer is a great way to increase their pension savings. The value of an investment can fall as well as rise and isn’t guaranteed. An employee could get back less than they originally invested.

Employers with an auto-enrolment scheme must ensure the contributions payable meet the minimum contribution requirements. The minimum contributions to be paid to a qualifying workplace pension scheme are increasing in two stages - this is known as phasing.

The minimum contribution rates will increase on 6 April 2018 and 6 April 2019.

It’s your responsibility as an employer to understand what this means for you and to take action to ensure the minimum contribution requirements are met.

How does this affect employers? 

The impact on you will vary depending on the following:

  • Your pension arrangements for your employees
  • Whether you’re using ‘qualifying earnings’, or one of the other earning sets, to calculate contributions
  • The software used for auto-enrolment (Aegon’s SmartEnrol or another package)
  • The current contribution rates being paid by you and your employees

For more information on these see below.

Your pension arrangements for your employees

You’ll want to ensure your existing pension arrangements – scheme rules or terms and conditions - already require payment of at least the minimum contributions set out in the legislation, including the increases being phased in.  If you plan to make changes to what’s already required, you should take legal or specialist advice about whether or not you’ll need to consult with employees. The Pensions Regulator has further information and a letter template(Opens new window) to help you communicate the changes to your employees.

The new contribution rates applying from 6 April 2018 and 6 April 2019 differ depending on whether you use qualifying earnings, or one of the other earning sets, to calculate contributions.

Use the table below to identify the minimum contribution rates that apply to your qualifying workplace pension scheme.

Earnings set Earnings definition Minimum contribution to 5 April 2018 Minimum contribution 6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019 Minimum contribution 6 April 2019 onwards
Qualifying earnings Based on all earnings, deducting the lower earnings threshold and capped at the upper earnings threshold. 2% at least 1% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 5% at least 2% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 8% at least 3% of which must be the employer’s contribution.
Set 1 Based on pensionable earnings which must be at least equal to the employee’s basic pay. 3% at least 2% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 6% at least 3% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 9% at least 4% of which must be the employer’s contribution.
Set 2 Based on pensionable earnings which must be at least equal to the employee’s basic pay. This set can only be used if the combined total pensionable earnings of all employees in the group is at least 85% of their combined total earnings. 2% at least 1% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 5% at least 2% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 8% at least 3% of which must be the employer’s contribution.
Set 3 Based on all earnings. 2% at least 1% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 5% at least 2% of which must be the employer’s contribution. 7% at least 3% of which must be the employer’s contribution.
  • An employer can agree to pay more than the employer minimum contribution, but can’t pay less than this.
  • The employee must be required to pay any difference between the employer contribution and the total minimum.
  • Employers and employees can arrange to pay more than the minimums.

Your next steps will depend on the earnings set you use and the current contribution rates that apply under your pension arrangements.

Where the current contribution rates that apply are: 

Above the minimum for 6 April 2018

  • There’s no further action you need to take just now.  Continue paying these and consider if a higher level for you and your employees is appropriate.

Above the minimum for 6 April 2019

  • There’s no further action you need to take for contribution phasing.  Continue paying these and consider if a higher level for you and your employees is appropriate.

Below the minimum for 6 April 2018

  • Please open the sections below and read on for more information.

Above the minimum for 6 April 2018 and below the minimum for 6 April 2019

  • Please open the sections below and read on for more information. This will help you prepare for the changes required by 6 April 2019.

This will depend on the software you use.

For employers using SmartEnrol

We’ve updated SmartEnrol and made all the changes required for phasing. This means your process will remain unchanged. However, where you include contribution percentages in your payroll file, you’ll need to update the minimum percentages. Where the contribution percentages are not included in the payroll file, you can ask Aegon to add these.

You’ll need to speak with your payroll provider to ensure that the correct contribution rates are used to calculate contributions.

For employers not using SmartEnrol

If you’re not using SmartEnrol, you're likely to be using software that helps you in meeting your auto-enrolment duties.  This may be provided by a third-party and may be part of your payroll software.

We recommend that you speak to your payroll provider (this could be in-house or provided by a third-party) as early as possible to understand how phasing will work for you and your employees.

You’ll continue to submit contributions to Aegon in the same way as before, though adjustments to your contribution rates may be needed as explained above. 

Speak to a financial adviser and legal representatives to understand your responsibilities and ensure what you're doing is correct.

The new minimum contribution rates apply from 6 April 2018 and 6 April 2019.  SmartEnrol will continue to check and inform you whether the contributions being paid meet the minimum required by legislation, set out above.  Where the PRP spans 6 April SmartEnrol will calculate the contributions for the purposes of this check on a pro-rata basis.

For example if you're using a calendar month as a PRP, SmartEnrol will calculate the contributions for the PRP starting on 1 April 2018 and ending on 30 April 2018 as follows;

  • 1 – 5 April 2017/18 rates
  • 6 – 30 April 2018/19 rates

If you don’t use SmartEnrol, you should check how your software provider intends to deal with any required increase at 6 April 2018 and 6 April 2019.

Yes, it applies to all defined contribution pension schemes that are used as an auto-enrolment or qualifying scheme.

Aegon strongly supports the Government’s principle of encouraging people to make adequate pension savings for themselves.  Help from employers is critical to achieve this. 

You’ve a responsibility to meet the legal duty that the correct contributions are paid, as required under your pension arrangements. By not doing so you could negatively impact your employees’ retirement pension and could leave you open to legal action from The Pensions Regulator.