The key rules employers must follow when assessing the re-enrolment pool


Every three years, employers have a duty to assess workers in the re-enrolment pool – those who’ve opted-out or voluntarily left a qualifying scheme. Employers normally have to automatically re-enrol any eligible jobholders – but exceptions apply. We outline the key rules for this cyclical re-enrolment process.

Assessment of pensions

The cyclical re-enrolment duty applies approximately every three years from an employer’s staging date or duties start date. An employer needs to assess its workforce at its re-enrolment date and determine if any of its workers are eligible jobholders who need to be automatically re-enrolled.

Choosing the re-enrolment date
An employer’s first step is choosing its re-enrolment date. While an employer can’t use postponement at re-enrolment, the rules do provide some flexibility. You can choose its first re-enrolment date within a six month window spanning the three-year anniversary of its original staging date or duties start date. The earliest re-enrolment date is three months before the three-year anniversary and the latest is three months after.

After you have been through cyclical re-enrolment for the first time, you also have some choice about the next cyclical re-enrolment date. This must fall within a six month window starting three months before the third anniversary of your last cyclical automatic re-enrolment date and ending three months from that anniversary.

The same re-enrolment date applies to all workers who are being re-enrolled. So it’s not possible for you to choose different dates for different sections of the workforce. You don’t need to inform The Pensions Regulator (TPR) of the re-enrolment date until you complete the re-declaration of compliance – covered later.

You can choose the most appropriate date within the six-month re-enrolment window. You might want to align the re-enrolment date with the start of the accounting year or the annual start date for other employee benefit schemes. Ideally, this re-enrolment date will align with the beginning of a pay reference period to avoid any part-period calculations. 

For example: 

  • An employer’s staging date was 1st October 2015.
    It can choose any date between 1st July 2018 and 31st December 2018 as its re-enrolment date.
  • Another employer’s duties start date was 1st June 2018.
    Its first re-enrolment window will be 1st March 2021 to 31st August 2021.

Assessing scheme leavers
Employers must determine if they have any workers that need to automatically re-enrol on the chosen re-enrolment date. This is a separate assessment to the one you run in each pay reference period. The re-enrolment assessment covers any workers who’ve opted out or ceased active membership of your qualifying scheme. It’s based on each worker’s circumstances on the re-enrolment date.

The re-enrolment pool includes workers who’ve used their opt-out rights or voluntarily ceased active membership of their employer’s qualifying scheme. It also includes workers who’ve remained in the scheme after choosing to reduce their pension contributions below the minimum level required for a qualifying scheme. For example, they might have taken this action after the April 2018 contribution step-up – and it means the scheme stops being a qualifying scheme for that particular worker.

You can exclude the following groups from your cyclical re-enrolment assessment.

  • Workers who are active members of your qualifying scheme on its re-enrolment date
  • Workers aged under 21 – or who are at state pension age or over – on the re-enrolment date.
  • Workers who’ve always been non-eligible jobholders or entitled workers since the staging date/duties start date or their employment start date if later.
  • Workers where you have used postponement and the workers weren’t automatically enrolled because they weren’t eligible jobholders on the deferral date.
  • Workers who were active members of your qualifying scheme at its staging date/ duties start date, but haven’t ever met the eligible jobholder criteria while active members, or after they ceased active membership.
  • Workers who are subject to postponement on the re-enrolment date.

Re-enrolment duty & optional exceptions
If the assessment identifies any eligible jobholders in the re-enrolment pool who are not active members of a qualifying scheme, the employer normally has a duty to automatically re-enrol them as at its re-enrolment date. To restate, this duty applies to workers assessed as eligible jobholders on the re-enrolment date, who’ve previously used their opt-out rights, or who’ve chosen to end their membership of a qualifying scheme, including by choosing to reduce their contributions below the required level.

If the assessment identifies any eligible jobholders, the employer normally has a duty to automatically re-enrol them.

However, if any of the optional exceptions from the re-enrolment duty apply to an eligible jobholder, you can choose whether or not to automatically re-enrol them. If you do choose to re-enrol them, you follow the process in the next section ‘Completing re-enrolment.’ The optional exceptions are as follows.

  • Eligible jobholders who’ve used their opt-out rights, or ceased active membership of a qualifying scheme within the 12 months before the re-enrolment date.
  • Eligible jobholders who’ve given or received notice to terminate their employment – in connection with resigning, retiring or being dismissed.
  • Eligible jobholders with primary, enhanced, fixed or individual lifetime allowance protection.
  • Eligible jobholders who are company directors (i.e. they are company officials, not senior employees with director as their job title).
  • Eligible jobholders who are partners/members in a limited liability partnership (LLP) who are taxed on a self-employed basis.
  • Eligible jobholders who were paid a winding up lump sum, ceased employment, became re-employed by the same employer and became eligible for automatic enrolment – and all of these events occurred within the same 12 month period.

Completing re-enrolment
If an employer identifies any eligible jobholders that it has to re-enrol, it must make arrangements for them to become active members of its automatic enrolment scheme from its re-enrolment date.

You follow basically the same process as for ordinary automatic enrolment. However, a key difference is that you can’t use postponement. You must complete the re-enrolment process during the six week joining window starting on the re-enrolment date. The re-enrolment date is also the start date for calculating contributions to the scheme.

You have a duty to provide information to any eligible jobholders that you are automatically re-enrolling. The information requirements are the same as for ordinary automatic enrolment except that any references to ‘automatic enrolment’ should read ‘automatic re-enrolment.’

The information requirements include the right of an automatically re-enrolled eligible jobholder to opt-out.

After completing the re-enrolment process, the employer normally has no further duties to any workers who remain in the re-enrolment pool until its next cyclical re-enrolment date. The two exceptions are where a worker makes an opt-in or joining request. Or where the process has triggered the employer’s duty to provide opt-in or joining rights for the first time.

Re-declaration of compliance
TPR requires all employers who have any employees on their re-enrolment date to complete a re-declaration of compliance. So this requirement also covers employers without anyone to re-enrol. You must submit your first re-declaration of compliance within five months of the three-year anniversary of its staging date. This confirms to TPR how you complied with the re-enrolment duties.

For more information on cyclical re-enrolment, see TPR’s detailed guidance 11.

The author is Bernadette Lewis, Financial Planning Manager at Scottish Widows.

This article is provided by Scottish Widows. 


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