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From 6 January 2024, the main rate of class 1 National Insurance contributions (NIC) deducted from employees’ wages is reduced from 12% to 10%. From 6 April 2024, the main rate of self-employed class 4 NIC will reduce from 9% to 8% and class 2 NIC will no longer be due. Those with profits below £6,725 a year can continue to pay class 2 NIC to keep their entitlement to certain state benefits. Our guidance will be updated in full in spring 2024.

Updated on 6 April 2023

Pensions: auto-enrolment into workplace pensions

Under auto-enrolment, employers have to automatically enrol eligible workers into a qualifying pension scheme, if they are not already in one. Workers not automatically enrolled will also be able to opt-in to a pension scheme, if they wish. Here we look at auto-enrolment in more detail.

Content on this page:

Overview

Auto-enrolment requires all employers (even those who just have one member of staff) to automatically enrol certain staff into a pension scheme and make contributions towards it. Usually the staff member will also have to make contributions to the pension scheme which the government may top up with tax relief.

Auto-enrolment is designed to ensure that more workers have easy access to a workplace pension scheme, enabling them to save towards their retirement and enjoy an income over and above their state pension. We provide more information about workplace pensions generally on our page Workplace pensions.

Conditions

On the first day of their employment, employers must automatically enrol all staff who are:

Weekly £192
2-weekly £384
4-weekly £769
Monthly £833


If you do not meet the eligibility criteria, you might do at some stage in the future, for example when you have a birthday or if your earnings change. Your employer should enrol you at that point (or after three months if they decide to postpone you – see below).

You can read about how auto-enrolment applies to those with varying pay or multiple jobs, on our page Pensions auto-enrolment: common issues for low-income workers.

If or when you meet the eligibility criteria, your employer should write to you and let you know. In the letter they must tell you:

Even if you meet the eligibility criteria, in some rare instances, your employer will still not have to automatically enrol you. You can find a list of the instances when your employer does not have to automatically enrol you, on GOV.UK.

If you are genuinely self-employed in business on your own account, then auto-enrolment does not apply to you. However, you may still want to set up a pension scheme to provide funds for your retirement.

Postponement

Please note that it is possible for an employer to legitimately postpone offering a pension scheme to their staff for up to three months.

Postponement can be used in various circumstances, for example:

  • from the date an employee first becomes eligible for auto-enrolment (for example, when they turn 22), or
  • on the first day of employment.

If your employer chooses to postpone you, then they should write to you and let you know.

Please note that you can choose to opt into the pension scheme during the postponement period.

Opting out

From the date you are automatically enrolled, you will have a month to choose to ‘opt out’ – contributions made during this period should be refunded. If you opt out after a month, the contributions you have already made will usually have to remain in your pension pot. Therefore, if you do want to opt out, it makes sense to do this as early as possible. If you opt out, you can ask to re-join the scheme at a later date but your employer may only allow you to do this once every 12 months.

Even if you do not ask to re-join, your employer will normally put you back into a scheme every three years. This is called re-enrolment.

You can find out more about opting out of automatic enrolment, and rejoining, on the MoneyHelper website. Remember that if you opt out your employer will not make any contributions for you.

Please note that 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 that someone is more likely to get a job if they choose to opt out of the pension scheme.

We discuss this in more detail on our page Pensions auto-enrolment: resolving issues.

Opting in

You can ask to join a workplace pension scheme, even if you are not entitled to be automatically enrolled. Your employer may have to pay into it on your behalf depending on whether you are a ‘non-eligible jobholder’ or an ‘entitled worker.’

  • Non-eligible jobholders: for example those aged 16 to 74, earning from £6,240 (in 2023/24) to £10,000 or those aged 16 to 21 or state pension age to 74 and earning at over £10,000. You are entitled to opt in, with an employer contribution.
  • Entitled workers: for example those earning under £6,240 (in 2023/24). You are entitled to join a scheme but are not entitled to an employer contribution if you do so.
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