What is a Workplace Pension?
by Kelly Wallace Horne
Since April 2017, it’s compulsory that all eligible employees receive a Workplace Pension as part of their employment contract, and this applies to grooms working in the equine industry. There is still a lot of confusion surrounding Workplace Pensions ie:
- who is eligible for one?
- who should be paying into one?
We have put together a simple guide researched to answer 10 common questions regarding Workplace Pensions in the equine industry. Our sources are reliable authorities on these matters and they provide much more detailed and official detail for you. They are listed at the bottom of this article. We have summarised some of their instructions for ease and convenience but you must satisfy yourself that you remain compliant with the exact details of what they instruct and advise – obviously we are not pension experts.
In this article we cover:
- what is a Workplace Pension?
- what does this mean?
- who should expect to receive one?
1. What is a Workplace Pension Scheme?
A Workplace Pension scheme helps employees save for their retirement through contributions deducted directly from their wages. The majority of schemes will also provide other benefits, for example, support for the recipients partner in the event of death. If an employee is eligible for automatic enrolment, their employer has to enrol them into the scheme.
In the past, employees had to set up their own personal pension scheme. Now, with the compulsory Workplace Pension most employees are signed up straight away and have to arrange to opt out if they no longer want to pay into the pension scheme. The money paid into the Workplace Pension scheme comes straight out of the employees wages, so it’s already been deducted when salary goes into the bank, just like tax, National Insurance or a student loan repayment.
2. Who is eligible to receive a Workplace Pension?
Employers must enrol all eligible employees into their Workplace Pension. This is referred to as “automatic enrolment”. Employees will be eligible if:
- they work on an employed basis, not a self-employed or freelance groom
- they are aged 22 or over
- they are under State Pension age
- they earn more than £10,000 a year (£192.30 or more gross weekly)
- they usually work in the UK
3. Who pays into the Workplace pension? The employer, or the employee?
Usually both! Unlike other ways of saving, a Workplace Pension means the employee isn’t the only one paying money in. The employer has to contribute too, as long as the employee earns over £6,240 a year (£120 gross weekly). Both the employee and the employer must pay a percentage of the employees earnings into the Workplace Pension scheme.
Employees also get a contribution from the government in the form of tax relief. This means some of the salary that the government would have taken as income tax is paid directly into the Workplace Pension instead.
When an employer automatically enrols an employee into their Workplace Pension scheme, they must write to the employee to inform them of:
- the date they’ve added the employee to the pension scheme
- the type of pension scheme and who runs it
- how much they will contribute and how much the employee will have to pay in
- how the employee can leave the scheme should they want to
An employer can delay the date they must enrol a new employee into a pension scheme by up to 3 months, but they must:
- tell the employee about the delay in writing
- let the employee join the Workplace Pension scheme in the meantime if they ask to
If an employee works part time and earns less than £10,000 employees can still ask to join, in which case the employer can’t refuse the request and must make contributions, but employers are not expected to enrol them automatically.
4. How much is paid into a Workplace Pension?
There is a minimum total amount that has to be contributed by both the employee and the employer, based on your total earnings between £6,240 (£120 gross weekly) and £50,270 a year before tax (£966.73 gross weekly). This is known as “qualifying earnings”. Qualifying earnings include:
- salary or wages
- bonuses and commission
- statutory sick pay
- statutory maternity, paternity or adoption pay
So, for example, if a Groom earns £450 gross weekly (£23,400 a year), the contribution would be a percentage of £17,160 (the difference between £6,240 and £23,400).
As of April 2022 the minimum amount required to pay in has been 5% from the Groom and 3% from the employer.
Some employers apply the minimum pension contribution to the whole of the employee’s earnings, not just to qualifying earnings. This depends on how the Workplace Pension scheme is set up.
To offer a very basic example, each payday:
- the employee puts in £40
- the employer puts in £30
- the employee gets £10 “tax relief” – £10 is deducted from income tax and paid into the Workplace Pension instead
A total of £80 goes into the employees pension.
In simpler terms: for a groom aged 25 or over who earns the National Living Wage of £9.50 and works a 5.5 day/44-hour week (£412 gross per week), the groom will contribute £14.90, their employer will contribute £8.94 per week, making a combined contribution of £23.84 to the Workplace Pension scheme (based on the qualifying portion of the salary). You can work out the contribution on any salary using the Money Advice Service Workplace Pension Contribution calculator here.
Pension contributions are an allowable business expense, so you will also receive tax relief on the contributions you make to your employees Workplace Pension. You can read more on this by clicking here.
If you are not sure whether you pay Workplace Pension contributions on qualifying earnings or on full earnings, talk to your employer. Your employer will let you know how much of your earnings you need to contribute. They might tell you this as a sum of money or as a percentage. If they give you a percentage, you can find out what it means in pounds and pence using the Workplace Pension Contribution Calculator provided by The Money Advice Service by clicking here.
5. When and how are the Workplace Pension contributions paid?
Once an employee is automatically enrolled, contributions to the Workplace Pension will start straight away. Employer’s deduct the employees contribution directly from the employees pay, whether the salary period is weekly, monthly, or four weekly. This means that the employee doesn’t have to budget for the contribution out of their “take-home” salary, as when they receive their wages the pension contribution has already been paid.
6. How does the Workplace Pension work when an employee has more than one job?
If an employee has more than one job, each job is treated separately for automatic enrolment purposes. This means an employee might be enrolled on more than one Workplace Pension scheme, and this is fine.
Each employer will check whether the employee is eligible to join their pension scheme and will automatically enrol the employee into their Workplace Pension scheme.
If you work any of your part time jobs on a self-employed or freelance basis you will not be eligible for a Workplace Pension for that particular workplace. You can read more about pensions for self-employed and freelance workers below.
If you don’t want to be a member of more than one scheme you can choose to opt out of one of them, but you don’t have to. You can pay into more than one pension scheme if you want to.
If you earn more than £6,240 (£120 gross weekly) but less than £10,000 (£192.30 gross weekly) in any of your jobs you won’t be automatically enrolled in that employer’s pension scheme, but you can ask to join and your employer cannot refuse you.
Bear in mind that if you earn less than £6,240 a year (£120 gross weekly) in ALL of your part time jobs you won’t be automatically enrolled on any pension scheme, and you may not have sufficient pension to live on when you reach retirement age – it pays to think and do some calculations ahead! You want to be able to enjoy your retirement with your horses, not still be having to work to make ends meet! NB: In this situation, you can still ask to join your employers’ pension schemes and they cannot refuse you, but your employer doesn’t have to contribute.
Use the Workplace Pension Contribution Calculator provided by The Money Advice Service to check what the pension situation is for each of your part time jobs. Remember, information for each job must be put into the calculator separately – don’t add your salaries together or you’ll get the wrong result! Go to the calculator by clicking here.
7. What happens to the Workplace Pension when an employee changes jobs?
It’s important to know what happens to a Workplace Pension when the employee leaves a job and starts a new one. This is largely the employee’s responsibility as the employer’s obligations have ended with the termination of the employment contract.
What you do about your pension when you change jobs depends on what types of Workplace Pension schemes you’ve been enrolled on.
It’s very important to keep records of the pension providers your employers have enrolled you through. The pension belongs to you, not your employers, so you need to be in the know! Always ask each of your employers for the details of their Workplace Pension scheme and keep it safe, even after you’ve left your job with them!
When you leave a job you may choose to:
- leave your pension in your old employer’s scheme to be paid to you when you retire
- transfer your pension to a new Workplace Pension scheme with your new employer
- transfer your pension to a personal pension that you manage yourself
If you worked at your job for less than 2 years before leaving, you may be able to get a refund on what you’ve contributed. Check with your employer or the pension scheme provider.
Always speak to the Workplace Pension provider (the pension company, not your employer/former employer) about your options when leaving a job – the options available to you will differ depending on the particular pension provider your employer has used. If necessary, you can also get independent advice on your options. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau provide information on gaining independent financial advice here.
The Money Advice Service website has guidance on what to do if you are thinking about transferring a pension at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
Don’t forget to let your old pension provider know where you are if you change address later on. It’s easy to lose touch and this can make things more difficult when you retire and need your pension!
8. How do self-employed workers receive a Workplace Pension?
If a worker is self-employed, or works for someone else on a self-employed/freelance basis, the client (who would otherwise be the employer) has no Workplace Pension responsibilities, and it is entirely the worker’s responsibility to set up their own pension. Saving for your retirement is very important, so don’t overlook this critical part of ‘future proofing’. It’s important that self-employed and freelance workers find out about paying into a personal pension scheme. You can read more on this from The Money Advice Service here.
9. What if an employee has already got a pension?
An employee can have more than one pension scheme, so enrolling on a Workplace Pension scheme is not affected by any other pensions already held.
10. What if I don’t want to pay into a Workplace Pension?
All employers have to automatically enrol their eligible workers into a Workplace Pension, this isn’t something you can opt out of.
As an employer you cannot:
- unfairly dismiss or discriminate against an employee for being in a Workplace Pension scheme
- encourage or force an employee to opt out of the Workplace Pension
It is well worth noting failure to automatically enrol eligible employees for a Workplace Pension can incur fines, plus you will have to pay backdated payments into your employees’ Workplace Pension schemes which, over time, can run into thousands of pounds. Your employees will also have to make backdated contributions. We can all agree, this is not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in!
If your employee asks to opt out of your Workplace Pension scheme it’s advisable that you don’t simply act upon the outcome of a casual chat – get everything in writing.
NB: If an employee works part time and earns less than £10,000 they can still ask to join your Workplace Pension scheme, and you can’t refuse them.
If an employee has opted out of the Workplace Pension scheme you are required to automatically re-enrol them into the scheme every 3 years (from the date you first enrolled them) if they’re still eligible for it. This is a legal requirement. You must write to the employee when you do this, and the employee can leave the scheme again, but only after you’ve re-enrolled them, not before.
The Pensions Regulator website (part of www.gov.uk) has some very useful tools that will help you to find the information you need, with simple Question and Answer forms that will walk you through to the relevant information that is specific to you. You can find these tools by clicking here.
You can opt out of your employer’s Workplace Pension scheme after you’ve been enrolled, but if you do, you’ll lose out on your employer’s contribution to your pension, as well as the government’s contribution in the form of tax relief. You may also find yourself without an adequate pension to live on when you reach retirement age!
For most people, staying in a Workplace Pension is a good idea, especially as your employer must contribute to it as well. The contribution your employer makes to your pension is part of your overall salary package – so opting out is a bit like turning down pay!
There are circumstances in which it might make sense to opt out, for example, if you’re dealing with unmanageable debt. It’s not a good idea to opt out purely so you have more disposable income each week/month!
How can an employee leave (or “opt out”) of the Workplace Pension?
Your employer will have sent you a letter telling you that you’ve been added to the scheme and you can opt out at any time, if you want to:
- ask the company that provides your employer’s Workplace Pension scheme for an opt-out form. Ask your employer for the details you need.
- You must then return your completed form to your employer, not to the people who run the scheme.
- If you opt out within a month of being added to the scheme, you’ll get back any money you’ve already paid in.
- You may not be able to get your payments refunded if you opt out later – they’ll usually stay in your pension until you retire.
- You can opt out by contacting the pension provider. Your employer must tell you how to do this.
NB: Your employer is required to automatically re-enrol you in the scheme every 3 years (from the date you were first enrolled) if you’re still eligible for the Workplace Pension scheme. This is a legal requirement and they’ll write to you when they do this. You can leave the scheme again, but only after you’ve been re-enrolled.
Can I reduce my payments into the Workplace Pension?
You may be able to reduce the amount you contribute to your Workplace Pension for a short time. Check with both your employer and your pension provider to see if you can do this and how long you can do it for.
Can I opt back into a Workplace Pension?
You can do this at any time by writing to your employer. They are not legally obliged to accept you back into their workplace scheme if you’ve opted in and then opted out in the past 12 months, so make sure you really want to opt out before making any bold moves.
Sources and further reading
The Government website gives more detail on Workplace Pensions here.
The Money Advice Service gives more detail on Workplace Pensions here.
The Citizens Advice Bureau gives more details on Workplace Pensions here.
Use the Money Advice Service Workplace Pension Contribution calculator here.
Self-employed and freelance workers can find out more on the Government website about the different types of private pension here.
For employers, Pru Adviser gives further information about business tax relief on pension contributions here.
Both employers and employees can contact ACAS for information and advice on any matter regarding employment. You can find contact details for ACAS here.
All information is correct at the time of publishing this article (February 2019). This article offers basic guidelines, and we always advise you to consult financial and pension experts before acting.