Workplace pensions - what your employer can and cannot do

All employers must offer a workplace pension scheme by law. You, your employer and the government pay into your pension.

What your employer must do

Your employer must automatically enrol you into a pension scheme and make contributions to your pension if you’re eligible for automatic enrolment.

If your employer does not have to enrol you by law, you can still join their pension scheme if you want to. Your employer cannot refuse.

However, they do not have to contribute if you earn these amounts or less:

  • £520 a month
  • £120 a week
  • £480 over 4 weeks

When you’re enrolled into their pension scheme, your employer must:

  • pay at least the minimum contributions to the pension scheme on time - usually by 22nd of each month
  • let you leave the pension scheme (called ‘opting out’) if you ask - and refund money you’ve paid if you opt out within 1 month
  • let you rejoin the scheme at least once a year if you’ve opted out
  • enrol you back in at least every 3 years if you’ve opted out and you’re still eligible for automatic enrolment

What your employer cannot do

Your employer cannot:

  • encourage or force you to opt out of the scheme
  • unfairly dismiss or discriminate against you for staying in a workplace pension scheme
  • imply someone’s more likely to get a job if they choose to opt out of the pension scheme
  • close a workplace pension scheme without automatically enrolling all members into another one

If you’re concerned about the way your employer is dealing with automatic enrolment or managing your workplace pension, you can contact The Pensions Regulator.

What your employer must tell you

When your employer automatically enrols you into their workplace pension scheme, they must write to you. In the letter, they must tell you:

  • the date they’ve added you to the pension scheme
  • the type of pension scheme and who runs it
  • how much they will contribute and how much you’ll have to pay in
  • how you can leave the scheme if you want to

What employers can do

Delay the enrolment date

Your employer can delay the date they must enrol you into a pension scheme by up to 3 months.

Your employer must:

  • tell you about the delay in writing
  • let you join in the meantime if you ask to

First payments

Your employer can pay the first 3 months of contributions as a lump sum on the 22nd of the fourth month.

Salary sacrifice

You and your employer may agree to use ‘salary sacrifice’ (sometimes known as a ‘SMART’ scheme).

If you do this, you give up part of your salary and your employer pays this straight into your pension. In some cases, this will mean you and your employer pay less tax and National Insurance.

Ask your employer if they use salary sacrifice.