The Solution: Clifton Assist

Assessing your workforce

Employers will need to assess their workforce to see what their duties will be in relation to each of their workers. Employers will need to provide their workers with certain information, which will be identified by this assessment. In particular, they should find out whether they are likely to have an automatic enrolment duty, as this will require preparation.

Identify who to automatically enrol

Workers who need to be automatically enrolled are called ‘eligible jobholders.’

An eligible jobholder is:

  • Aged between 22 and state pension age
  • Working, or ordinarily working, in the UK
  • Earning above a certain amount (currently proposed to be £9,445).

Clifton Assist would carry out this assessment of your business and provide the required information.

Clifton Assist handles the auto-enrolment process for employers.

The location of the employer is not relevant when considering if a worker is an eligible jobholder. Neither is the worker’s nationality or the length of their stay in the UK. What is relevant is whether the worker is working, or ordinarily working, in the UK.

When considering whether a worker’s earnings are above or below the lower earnings limit, an employer needs to look at what is known as the worker’s ‘qualifying earnings.’ This will include earnings in salary, overtime, commission, bonuses, sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay.

It is important for employers to formally assess their workforce and understand what duties might apply. It may be possible for employers to defer this assessment – by allowing a ‘waiting period’ of up to 3 months.

Choosing a pension scheme

Clifton Assist will assess an existing pension scheme to see if it meets the criteria to become a qualifying scheme.

Clifton Assist will also plug into any number or type of existing or new pension schemes that an employer may have to provide a complete compliance solution in one package.

It is not necessary for an employer to change existing payroll system or pension schemes to implement the Clifton Assist compliance solution.

Register with the regulator

All employers will need to register with the regulator. This will be an online process.

Clifton Assist handles all registration and re-registration duties for employers.

Make contributions

Many employers offer a defined contribution scheme to staff. The rules of these schemes must require the employer to pay an overall minimum contribution of at least 8% of the worker’s qualifying earnings, of which at least 3% of this contribution must be from the employer.

In most cases, Government tax relief will account for 1% of the total 8%.

Employers who already have a pension scheme can confirm that it is suitable for automatic enrolment by a process called ‘certification.’

Clifton Assist handles the self-certification process for employers in conjunction with their financial advisers. It also plugs into an employer’s payroll system and ensures contributions meet the statutory requirements.

Process any opt out notices

Workers who have been automatically enrolled have the right to opt out of the employer’s pension scheme. There is an opt-out period of 1 month, where any deductions made from their salary will be refunded. The worker can choose to cease membership at any time, although they may not be entitled to a cash refund of contributions after the end of the 1 month opt-out period.

To opt out, workers must give notice via a document called an ‘opt-out notice’ to the employer. These notices will usually only be available from the pension scheme provider and not the employer, so that workers do not feel pressured into opting out.

When employers receive a valid opt-out notice within the 1 month period, they must pay back any contributions deducted from the worker’s pay. Equally, any contributions the employer has made must be refunded to the employer by the pension scheme.

Clifton Assist plugs into an employer’s pension scheme (or schemes) and manages and records the opt-out process.

Avoid inducements and prohibited activity

It is important that any worker’s decision to opt out of a scheme, or stop saving for retirement altogether, should be taken freely and without influence by the employer.

There are safeguards in place intended to protect the rights of individuals to have access to pension provision. These safeguards mean that employers must not take, or fail to take, any action, with the sole or main purpose to attempt to induce a jobholder to opt out of a pension scheme. Equally, an employer must not try to screen out job applicants on grounds relating to potential pension scheme membership, or suggest that a job applicant’s success could depend on whether or not they opt out of a pension scheme.

Employers need to formulate a policy on such issues as the avoidance of inducements and prohibitive activities. Clifton Assist can be used to hold such information centrally and communicate it to employees either collectively or individually.

Keep accurate records

Along with the requirements described previously, employers must keep specific records about their workers and their pension scheme(s). Most of these records must be kept for a minimum of 6 years.

Employers can use electronic or paper filing systems to keep or store any records, as long as they are legible or can be produced in a legible way if the regulator asks to see them.

Keeping accurate records about workers and the pension scheme helps avoid or resolve potential disputes with workers, as well as aid reconciliation of pension contributions.

Employers have a great deal of flexibility to use their existing business documentation (e.g. payroll records) as evidence of keeping a particular record.

An employer must also be able to keep track of the ages and earnings of everyone who works for them at all times. This is important to retain ongoing compliance with the requirements.

Clifton Assist keeps all the required records from payroll systems and pension schemes as well as keeping detailed records of all non-eligible employees, including those who voluntarily choose to opt-in to the pension scheme. At each payroll run Clifton Assist rechecks the eligibility of all previously ineligible employees and manages the auto-enrolment process for any who become eligible. All records are kept forever (not just for the 6 years required) whilst you are our customer and can be instantly provided to the Regulator on request.

Provide workers with information about the changes

Employers will need to inform their workers about the changes and how those workers are affected by them.

The specified information must be provided in writing, which can include being sent by email. However, it is not enough just to point individuals to an internet or intranet site, or display a poster in the workplace.

If the specified information requires personal or individual data to be communicated, it should not be included in a generic communication. In these circumstances, the employer is likely to have to write to, or email, each worker individually.

Where the specified information does not require individual data (e.g. the information to a jobholder about their right to opt in), it may be possible to provide the information in a generic communication, such as a joining pack.

The duty is on the employer to provide the right information to the right individual at the right time. Someone acting on the employer’s behalf (such as an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA), provider or benefit consultant) can provide the information, but it remains the employer’s responsibility to make sure it is provided on time and is complete and correct.

Clifton Assist provides all the right information to the right employees at the right time. It also keeps a complete audit trail of what is provided to whom and when.