What is the effect on my workforce?

You'll need to assess your workforce to determine whether they're treated as a 'worker'.

The term 'worker' can also include contractors and agency workers.

There are three different categories of worker, determined by their age and how much they earn and there are different requirements for each.

  • Eligible jobholders - must be automatically enrolled into an auto enrolment scheme
  • Non-eligible jobholders - have the right to opt-in to an auto enrolment scheme
  • Entitled workers - have the right to join a pension scheme

The table below shows you how to identify each type of worker:

1These figures are for the 2017/18 tax year.

Assessment of workers

The assessment of workers is first required:

  • on the staging date
  • whenever a new worker joins after the staging date
  • on a worker's 16th birthday after the staging date, and
  • on a worker's 22nd birthday after the staging date.

The assessment of workers is also required:

  • on the date you receive an opt-in or joining notice, and
  • on a regular basis for non-eligible-jobholders and entitled workers.

Exclusions and exceptions from the employer duties

People who are treated as workers

The following people are treated as workers but are not covered by the employer duties:

  • those who do not work or ordinarily work in the UK
  • those under 16, and
  • those aged 75 and over.

People who are not treated as workers

The following people are not treated as workers so the employer duties don't apply to them:

  • the self employed, and
  • members of the armed forces.

Workers who meet certain exceptions

If a worker meets any of the following conditions, the employer duties may vary and/or may not apply to them:

  • the worker has opted out or is no longer an active member of a qualifying scheme
  • the worker has given notice or been given notice of the end of their employment
  • the employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the worker is protected from tax charges on their retirement savings under HMRC's primary, enhanced or fixed protection
  • the worker has been paid a winding up lump sum whilst working for the employer, and
    • left employment after the payment has been made, and
    • subsequently been re-employed by the same employer
  • the worker meets the definition of a 'qualifying person' for the purposes of separate UK legislation on occupational pension schemes and cross-border activities within the European Union
  • the worker is a director of a company. If an employer chooses not to auto enrol a director, they must still be given the option to opt in.

The employer duties for the worker can vary depending on which exception applies to them. In some circumstances, employers are given the choice whether to comply with a duty or not, while in others, the duty can be removed altogether.

It's also possible for a worker to meet the conditions for more than one exception at the same time.


You can choose to operate a waiting period of up to three months. This means you can postpone the assessment of worker type until the end of the waiting period.

If you choose to use postponement you must tell the worker that:

  • a waiting period applies
  • they have the right to opt-in/join before the end of the waiting period.

You must provide this information within six weeks and a day of the worker's first day of employment. If you receive an opt-in or joining notice during the three month waiting period, you must assess the worker on the day you receive it.

Last updated: 06 Apr 2017

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