Automatic enrolment jargon buster

Automatic enrolment terms and jargon explained.


Under automatic enrolment regulations, you need to work out who to put into a pension scheme. When you start your automatic enrolment duties, you have to work out how much each of your employees earn and how old they are. This will identify what you need to do, and is sometimes referred to as ‘assessment’.


Paying money into a pension scheme is known as ‘making contributions’. You must pay money into the pension scheme on a regular basis.

Duties start date

This is the date the automatic enrolment duties start to apply to an employer who employs their first member of staff after 1 October 2017.  The duties apply immediately from the first day the first employee starts working for you. For more information on duties start date please visit The Pensions Regulator’s website.

Earnings basis

This describes which basis of the employee’s earnings are used for calculating pension contributions. There are typically three definitions:

Qualifying earnings – earnings between amounts that are set each tax year that have an upper and lower level. Contribution amounts are calculated from this pay only and not on anything above the upper level. It is made up of the following components of pay: salary, wages, commission, bonuses, overtime, statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay, and ordinary or additional statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay.

Pensionable earnings – is the pay on which an employer bases their pension contributions and should include basic pay as a minimum.

Total earnings – includes salary, wages, commission, bonuses, overtime, statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay, ordinary or additional statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay. Other pay components can be included and this list is not exhaustive.

For more information, take a look at The Pensions Regulator’s website.

Employee data

This includes your employee details and pension contribution amounts. You can transfer employee data to The People’s Pension by uploading a file – either manually or transferred automatically through your payroll software (if your payroll provider supports this).

Alternatively you may be able to manually key in the data.

Joiner information

All new members of The People’s Pension receive joiner information about their pension, plus how much will be contributed each pay period, how they can ask to leave (opt out) and other member information.

It also provides login details for the member’s Online Account, where they can check the value of their pension pot and manage their choice of investment funds.

Pay frequency

This is how often an employer pays their employees (eg weekly or monthly).

Pay period

Under automatic enrolment rules, this is the period of time over which earnings are to be measured. For example, if an employee is paid weekly, the pay period would be one week and if they are paid monthly, the pay period would be one month. The minimum pay period is one week.

To align with the pay frequency used to calculate PAYE and National Insurance contributions, the pay period can be a tax week, or a tax month.


An employer can postpone automatic enrolment for up to three months from certain dates. One of the main reasons an employer might decide to postpone is if they have temporary or short term employees.

You can only postpone automatic enrolment from:

  • your staging date or duties start date
  • an employee’s first day of employment
  • the date an employee first becomes eligible for automatic enrolment.

Please note: postponement is not available under The People’s Pension Simply Comply route.

Take a look at The Pensions Regulator’s website for more detailed guidance.

Staging date

If you had a PAYE scheme on or before 30 September 2017, you’ll have a staging date. This is when you need to start meeting your automatic enrolment duties. is your responsibility to identify your staging date. You can check your staging date on The Pensions Regulator’s website.

Employers who employ their first member of staff after 1 October 2017 will have a duties start date instead of a staging date.

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