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One of the questions companies up and down the UK have been asking for the past couple of years is: ‘What’s my staging date?’ It’s a question that must be answered correctly, too, as the penalties for getting this wrong are significant. But what does it mean?

auto enrolment staging date

For those of you not in the know, the staging date refers to the new pension auto-enrolment scheme which has been introduced by the government. Its aim is to encourage everyone to save for their future, with the help of their employer. Though inclusion depends working hours and age, all employers are legally obliged to auto enrol staff into a pension scheme and must contribute a percentage to their employees’ pension pots. Individuals do have the right to opt out, however.

What’s a staging date, then?

The staging date is the date by which all companies should launch their auto enrolment. Instead of asking every single employer in the country to start this initiative at the same time, no doubt causing a great deal of confusion and certainly a lot of work for those in the pension services industry, the government has rolled out the scheme using a staggered approach, which is based on the number of employees, with the biggest employers going first. This has also given smaller employers more time to get to grips with the scheme and find ways to source the additional funds required.

That means many of the UK’s largest employers have already enrolled their staff into their pension schemes (if they weren’t already). Those with 120,000+ employees started enrolment back in October 2012 and those with 50+ should have been enrolled by April 2015.

What is my staging date?

If you’re asking this question, then it can be safely assumed that you are a smaller company. From June 1 2015 onwards, those with fewer than 50 employees will start to be auto-enrolled into schemes, with August 1 as the date for companies with 40-49 employees and September 1 given as the staging date for those employing 30-39 people.

The staging date for businesses with fewer than 30 employees begins on June 1 and ends on April 1 2017, depending on PAYE reference number. The dates have been split by the last two characters in this number.

Published dates have been subject to change, but you can find out for certain via the Pensions Regulator website. You simply need to enter your PAYE reference.

I want to launch earlier – can I do that?

Absolutely. If you are in a position to do so, perhaps by outsourcing the entire scheme to a third party pensions expert, then go for it by all means.

For further information on auto enrolment for employers, visit the Pensions Regulator website.