How to set up your small business workplace pension scheme

Updated on 12 August 2015 | 0 Comments

With millions of small companies approaching their workplace pension staging date, here's how to get started with your scheme before it's too late.

Over the next two years around 1.8 million small businesses will need to set up workplace pension schemes for their staff.

However, according to The Pensions Regulator almost two thirds of small and micro employers still don’t know the exact date they need to start complying with auto-enrolment. 

Every employer is given a set date as to when they start, known as their ‘staging date’.

The research found that employers who are due to start between now and November 2015 are much better prepared than those who start in 2016 or later. Nine in 10 employers staging between August and November 2015 had already started preparation for auto-enrolment.

A significant proportion (79%) of employers staging in 2015 knew their date. This falls dramatically to just 29% of employers staging between January-November 2016 who accurately knew their staging date, and 30% of those staging between January and April 2017.

What are workplace pensions?

Workplace pensions were introduced in order to get us saving more for retirement.

The basic premise is that both the employer and employee pays in to the pension, with added tax relief from the Government on top, too.

Bigger employers had to start setting the pensions up back in 2012, while auto-enrolment for small and micro employers is being gradually rolled out until 2018.

Employers must be enrolled into a workplace pension scheme if they are aged between 22 and State Pension age, earn more than £10,000 a year and work in the UK.

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When is my staging date?

You can find our your staging date by heading over to The Pension Regulator’s website and entering your PAYE reference along with a security code. Your staging date can be pulled forward using The Pension Regulator’s online tool.

All you need is your letter code and PAYE scheme details to do it.

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How to set up workplace pensions for your staff

Setting up workplace pensions for your staff can all be done online. Here are the processes for each of the main providers who currently offer workplace pensions.


Here’s the initial form that you need to fill out to get started with the Nest process.

Once you’ve got all of the necessary information, the next step is to decide whether you want to manage setting up and admistering Nest yourself or get help from a delegate. Some or all of the tasks involved in setting up and running Nest can go to one or more other people in their company or to a third party such as an accountant, payroll provider, financial adviser or anyone else who helps with the business.  

[Related story: Nest work pension limit to be scrapped]

NOW: Pensions

With NOW: Pensions, you need to start the process a minimum of three months before your workplace pension scheme is due to start.

First, you'll be invited you to take a quiz to find out a bit more about you and your company. You'll then be sent advice tailored to your results.

Alternatively, you can do a straightforward sign up and get started that way.

Once you've submitted all of your company information, it'll take two working days to complete the legal agreement between NOW: Pensions and your business. You'll then have to follow a series of steps to set up your online portal.

After that, it's just a case of informing your employees of what's happening and dealing with any issues that arise, sending a declaration of compliance after your staging date. 

The People's Pension

If you want to go with The People's Pension, you need to check that your payroll software is up-to-date as it needs to be auto-enrolment compatible. Then you sign up with The People's Pension online; you can do this well in advance of your staging date if you prefer, giving you plenty of time to get your employees up to speed.

From there, log in to Online Services to do things like upload employee information, send contributions and manage opt-outs. Once your staging date has passed, you've got five months to fill out your declaration of compliance with The Pensions Regulator. 

Smart Pension

To get started with Smart Pension, all you need is a company name that's registered at Companies House and a director who is registered at Companies House to sign the documents. Make sure you have ID, company bank account details, a list of employees and their key information as well as planned employee groups and company contributions to hand.

From then on, it's all about the employees. Tell them what's going on, keep track of who's coming and who's going and assessing any changes in staff circumstances.

And don't forget to send that declaration of compliance to The Pensions Regulator.

The Pensions Regulator has created a Facebook page to help employers find the information that they need.

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