Saving with salary exchange

A salary exchange arrangement on your workplace pension scheme could help save money and improve the benefits package you offer your employees.

What is salary exchange?

Salary exchange is an agreement between you and your employees, where they agree to exchange part of their salary, bonus or even redundancy package for an increased employer contribution payment to their workplace pension.

It works in the same way as other salary related benefit schemes, for example company car, cycle to work and childcare vouchers schemes and can be easy to set up.

What are the advantages?

  • You save on National Insurance contributions (NICs).
  • Your employees save NIC’s and will save on income tax.
  • You can choose to keep any employer NIC savings or reinvest them into your employees’ pension plans.
  • Your salary exchange arrangement can be set up to give your employees a higher pension contribution or take-home pay.
  • There’s no increased pension contribution cost.

As with all pensions the value of investments can go down as well as up, and your employees may not get back the original amount invested in their plan.

Salary exchange in practice

We’ve provided some examples below to show how salary exchange could benefit you and your employees.

Scheme level

The amount you can save will depend on the size of your workplace pension scheme, and the value of salary exchanged.

The examples below highlight how much NIC can be saved by introducing salary exchange and keeping all the savings. Your adviser can help you calculate what your savings will be if you choose to introduce this arrangement.

Number of pension scheme members50100500
Total yearly salary payment before exchange £1,500,000 £3,000,000 £15,000,000
Total salary exchanged by employees (5%) £75,000 £150,000 £750,000
Employer NIC rate (2024/25) x 13.8%
Employers annual NIC saving* £10,350   £20,700 £103,500

*Figures are based on an average salary of £30,000 per employee, each exchanging 5% of their salary for a pension contribution. Employer yearly savings are the NI contributions that would be paid without salary exchange in place.

Employee level

The following examples look at the costs, savings and benefits if you choose to reinvest all savings, or no savings in your employees’ pension plans.

We've based these on salaries for basic rate and higher rate taxpayers, and standard Automatic Enrolment (AE) contribution rates of 3% employer and 5% employee. Higher level pension contributions will provide higher NI and income tax savings.

 Before salary exchangeAfter salary exchangeBefore salary exchangeAfter salary exchange
Salary £27,000 £25,500 £55,000 £52,155
Employee    
Pension contribution £1,080 £0 £2,200 £0
Income tax payment £2,886 £2,586 £8,882 £8294.07
NIC £1,154.40 £1,034.40 £3,110.60 £3,053.70
Employer    
Pension contribution £810 £2,517 £1,650 £4,887
NIC £2,470.20 £2,263.20 £6,334.20 £5,941.61
Outcome    
Employee take home pay £21,879.60 £21,879.60 £40,807.40 £40,807.40
Total pension contributions £2,160 £2,517 £4,400 £4,887
Cost to employer (including salary) £30,280.20 £30,280.20 £62,984.20 £62,984.20

All figures are based on tax and NI rates for the 2024/25 tax year and rounded down to the nearest £.

 Before salary exchangeAfter salary exchangeBefore salary exchangeAfter salary exchange
Salary £27,000 £25,650 £55,000 £52,250
Employee    
Pension contribution £1,080 £0 £2,200 £0
Income tax payment £2,886 £2,616 £8,882 £8,332
NIC £1,154.40 £1,046.40 £3,110.60 £3,055.60
Employer    
Pension contribution £810 £2,160 £1,650 £4,400
NIC £2,470.20 £2,283.90 £6,334.20 £5,954.70
Outcome    
Employee take home pay £21,879.60 £21,987.60 £40,807.40 £40,862.40
Total pension contributions £2,160 £2,160 £4,400 £4,400
Cost to employer (including salary) £30,280.20 £30,093.90 £62,984.20 £62,604.70

All figures are based on tax and NI rates for the 2024/25 tax year and rounded down to the nearest £.

NI savings are added to your employees take home pay. This is reflected in their exchanged salary amount, which is slightly higher than the exchanged salary where savings are paid into their pension plan.

Things to consider

  • There can be an increased level of administrative and HR work required with a salary exchange arrangement. You can manage those levels by having a default approach to how savings are reinvested. For example, all employee savings are invested into their pension plan.
  • You’ll need to ensure your employee payslips display the amount of the salary exchanged. Can your payroll do this, or will it require additional resource?
  • Salary exchange may not be suitable for employees earning more than £260,000 with a tapered annual allowance. If this applies to any of your employees, they could incur additional annual allowance tax charges.
  • Your employees’ yearly pre-tax salaries will reduce by agreeing to salary exchange. This can affect their entitlement to things such as statutory and salary related benefits.

    In the past this may also have impacted the amount they could borrow in terms of a mortgage or loan. These days most lenders will calculate lending based on the notional salary – their salary before the exchange.
  • As tax treatment depends on your employees circumstances, and could change in future, the level of savings could change in line with this.

    Salary exchange may not be suitable for everyone. We recommend you get professional advice if you need more information.

Redundancy exchange

No one knows what the future holds. If you find that you need to reduce your staff levels you can offer your employees the option to exchange part of their redundancy package too. 

To view this information in a printable format, download our employer guide to salary exchange.

Setting up your salary exchange arrangement

To help ensure your salary exchange arrangement is set up correctly, we've detailed some things you need to think about, and the decisions you'll need to make in our Getting you set up for salary exchange guide.

We'll work closely with you and your adviser to set up your arrangement on your workplace pension scheme and get your employees on board.

To give you that extra bit of support, you’ll have an implementation manager who’ll make setting up your new scheme or moving your existing scheme easy. Within just a few steps, your scheme will be up and running and they’ll provide all the training you need on our online systems to run your scheme yourself, using our employer online service.

Salary exchange calculator

You can use our calculator to produce statements detailing total savings, pension contributions and take-home pay for each of your employees.

Your dedicated scheme owner will then take over and keep a watchful eye on your scheme to make sure it’s running exactly as it should.

We’ll also provide a suite of member engagement materials that you can share with your employees to help them understand the long-term value of salary exchange.

These include:

Useful links to external sites

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Further information

For more information about salary exchange speak to your financial adviser.