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Automatic Enrolment Pensions during Furlough

Automatic enrolment duties

Your automatic enrolment (AE) duties continue to apply as normal, including your re-enrolment and re-declaration duties. This is the case whether your staff are still working or are being furloughed as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

New employers

If you are a new employer, you should continue to assess your staff and put them into a pension if they are eligible. You can also use a process called postponement which postpones your duty to assess new or newly eligible staff (and therefore make pension contributions) for up to three months.


Many smaller employers are approaching or carrying out their first re-enrolment of staff. We will continue to write to you with information and support on how to carry out your re-enrolment duties and complete your re-declaration of compliance, recommending that you assess your staff for re-enrolment on the third anniversary of your staging date or duties date.

You cannot use postponement at re-enrolment. However, if you are struggling to complete your re-enrolment duties on the third anniversary of your staging date or duties start date due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can choose a later date up to three months after your third anniversary to assess your staff. Use our re-enrolment date tool to see your available dates.

Maintaining pension contributions

The obligation for you and your members of staff to make contributions is set out in your pension scheme’s rules or other governing documentation.

Your staff may choose to either reduce their contribution level (if the scheme rules allow this) or opt out or cease active membership of the scheme if they decide that is right for them at this time. However, you must not encourage or induce them to choose this option. If staff choose to reduce their contributions your scheme rules may allow you to reduce your employer contributions or retain them at the current rate.

Any member of staff who reduces their contribution below the statutory minimum, or opts out, or ceases active membership, must be put back into the pension scheme at the next re-enrolment date provided they:

  • Meet the criteria for re-enrolment.
  • reduced their contribution below the statutory minimum, opted out or ceased active membership more than 12 months before the re-enrolment date. If they have opted out or ceased active membership within the 12 months before the re-enrolment date you can choose to re-enrol them, but you don’t have to.

Any member of staff who reduces their contribution below the statutory minimum, or opts out, or ceases active membership, can also choose to opt back in to pension saving before the re-enrolment date if they wish.

Unless a member of your staff asks to opt out of their workplace pension or reduces their contributions, you and your staff members must continue to make the contributions required under the scheme at the correct time.

Any staff contributions you deduct from their wages must be paid to the scheme and not used for any other purposes.

Employers paying more than the statutory minimum contribution

You might pay more than the statutory employer minimum AE contribution included in the grant under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme because:

  • you choose to pay your furloughed worker more than 80% of their salary or more than £2,500 a month
  • the furloughed worker is an active member of a defined benefit (DB) pension scheme or a DB member of a hybrid pension scheme
  • you choose to use certification for your defined contribution (DC) pension scheme (sometimes known as a ‘money purchase scheme’) and the scheme rules or governing documentation may require contributions from the first penny of earnings
  • under the scheme rules, your contribution rate is higher than 3%
  • under the scheme rules, you pay the total contribution and your member of staff does not pay any: this will be the case if you use salary sacrifice on pension contributions

If you are paying more than the AE statutory minimum contribution, the excess will not be funded by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. You should continue to make the correct contributions due under the scheme and in this case will have to pay a proportion of the pension contribution cost yourself.

Reducing the employer contribution to the statutory minimum

If you use a DC pension scheme and your employer contribution under your scheme is more than the statutory minimum, you may be able to decrease it to the statutory minimum. However, you cannot legally reduce your contributions to below the statutory minimum.

There are a number of factors you should consider when deciding to decrease the employer contribution including:

  • Your employment contracts with your staff and whether any changes need to be made, by agreement. You may wish to seek legal advice on the process.
  • Any agreements you have with recognised trade unions or other staff representative forums to discuss or notify of such changes.
  • The rules or governing documentation of the pension scheme you use, whether these currently permit you to reduce your contributions to the statutory minimum or whether you will need a change to the scheme rules. If the pension scheme you use is a Group Personal Pension, you might be able to do this by changing the arrangements you have for paying contributions without the need for a new or amended contract. If you are unsure of your scheme provisions, you should speak to your scheme trustees or provider.
  • Who has the power under the rules to make changes if you have a trust-based scheme. This might be you or the trustees or a shared power. If the power is a trustee power or shared power, you will need to engage with the trustees of your scheme. Even if you have the power to amend the scheme rules, we would recommend that you notify the trustees beforehand.
  • Whether there are rules that apply under pensions legislation, even if employment law permits. For example, employers with at least 50 employees with a DC pension scheme, are legally required to consult with members if they are making changes that decrease employer contributions.

If you have further questions on Auto-enrol pensions or the Job retention scheme the contact AJR & Co Ltd.