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Top 10 questions asked by employers after they’ve taken out a workplace pension

February 8, 2016

Top 10 Employer Questions

Hi – and welcome to our first employer clinic. As you’ll guess, we get lots of questions every day about everything under the auto-enrolment sun – here’s the answers to some of the most popular ones. If your question isn’t here – why not leave it in the comments section and we’ll get right back to you.

OK here we go … the first one’s about Group Pension Zone:

1. I’ve deferred for 3 months and now it’s my first month to make a payment. But no members are showing up in Group Pension Zone? Help!

What’s more than likely is that if you’re using our assessment tool, then an assessment file has not been uploaded for each pay reference period from your staging date. You need to do this so the tool works properly. If you pay your staff monthly, it will be the fourth file that you upload to the system that will trigger off members to be joined, and for their opt-out window to start.

But I’m not using your assessment tool…

OK – that’s fine – it just means you will need to submit a JOIN file when you need members to be joined. The JOIN file is also used to add opt ins to the pension scheme. You may also have to submit a separate New Member Communications file (if you haven’t already sent out letters).

2. My payroll (software/company) is carrying out the assessments. How will this work with your system?

A bit like the answer above – if you aren’t using our assessment tool, then you will need to submit a JOIN file when you need eligible members to be joined. You may also have to submit a separate New Member Communications file if payroll is not doing this for you in order to send out the letters. TOP TIP – ask your payroll company – they may be able to provide you with a completed file that is already in the correct format for you to upload to our system.

3. I’m completing my Declaration of Compliance and it’s asking for the EPSR number?

That’s an easy one – the EPSR number is the same as your scheme number.

4. I have upgraded my scheme to a new QWPS. Do the existing members get joined automatically to the new scheme?

No – you will have to join them to the new scheme. If you are joining your existing members to your new scheme before your staging date your employees will need to provide their consent to join. If you are automatically enrolling your employees on, or after, your staging date they need to meet the age and earnings criteria.

5. I have upgraded my scheme to a new QWPS. What happens to the existing members’ funds? Can they transfer their funds across to the new scheme?

The funds will remain invested in the existing fund selection and the same charges will apply. But it means that no further contributions will go into it as these will now be paid into the new scheme. It will be up to the individual member to decide if they want to consolidate their plans – but we recommend that they seek financial advice before they do this.

6. Do I have to upload an assessment, communications and join file every month/week?

Yes- for each pay reference period. This makes sure that the right communications are sent out; employees are placed in the correct waiting periods (if applicable) and are joined at the right time automatically, to the pension scheme. This regular upload will also act as a useful record that you’ve been assessing your workforce.

7. What does ‘pensionable salary’ and ‘eligibility earnings’ mean?

I’m glad you asked that as it’s one of the commonest questions! Pensionable pay is what is used to calculate pension contributions. This could be an employee’s basic salary but not necessarily their total pay. Qualifying earnings are reduced by the lower limit and capped at the upper limit.

Eligibility earnings are what employees earn in a pay period e.g. one week or one month and this figure may include overtime, commission, and bonuses as well as basic pay. Eligibility earnings are one of the factors used to determine if an employee is eligible for automatic enrolment.

8. When I try to upload my file, I keep getting lots of errors. Why?

The data that you send to us needs to be in a specific format. Have a look on Group Pension Zone and download the Data exchange guide – that’ll keep you right. Also, if when you upload the file, the system asks “what line the member data starts from?”? Make sure you select what is relevant to your file – e.g., Line 2 because Line 1 is the headings or Line 3 because a space has been left in between – and so on.

9. I have a member of staff that has not been automatically enrolled but they wish to join the pension scheme. Do I have to do this, and if so – how?

Yes. You’ll have to join them to the pension scheme if they ask you to do this and provide a valid opt in notice. If they’re classed as a non-eligible jobholder then you will have to pay contributions as well.

If they’re classed as an entitled worker, then they are entitled to join the pension scheme but you don’t have to pay in to it.

10. Certain employees have told me already that they will opt out from the scheme; do I still have to join them?

Even if you know that they’ll opt out; you have to join them to the pension scheme if they meet the criteria and are eligible for automatic enrolment.

The responsibility then lies with the employee to opt out in time if they don’t want to be in the pension scheme. But if they miss their opt-out window, then they can only stop contributions and no refunds can be made.


We’d love to hear from you and your answer might help someone else too – what goes around!


The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice. A personal pension is an investment and its value can go up or down and may be worth less than you paid in. Laws and tax rules may change in the future. The information here is based on our understanding in February

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