Auto-Enrolment for Managers

The Pensions Regulations, which came into force on 1 March 2013, require the University to automatically enrol new employees into a University pension scheme, subject to certain eligibility criteria. New casual workers may request to enrol in an appropriate pension scheme but will not be assessed for automatic enrolment until they have worked for the University for more than 12 weeks. The Auto Enrolment Decision Tree explains the different options and processes.

When the Regulations were introduced, briefing sessions were run for departmental administrators. You can download the presentation and handouts from the sessions, which provide some useful background:

Please refer to the items below for a summary of actions required by departments.

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In addition to the ongoing requirement to enrol eligible employees and others, there is a three year re-enrolment duty. This is in essence similar to the process that was followed in 2016. If an individual is not a member of a pension scheme and opted-out of a pension scheme before July 2018, they will be re-assessed in June 2019 and if eligible re-enrolled. Should individuals wish to opt out they may do so after 1 June 2019.

A reminder email will be sent to those identified as eligible for re-enrolment in May and if re-enrolled they will be sent an email notification in early June. For employees to opt out of USS in June 2019 a completed opt out form must be received after 1 June and before 17 June. It is possible to opt out of USS in the first three months and receive a refund of contributions from the scheme. The USS opt out form can be found on the USS website.

OSPS members in the Investment Builder  (Defined Contribution, DC) section can only opt out from the start through the Legal and General website using the enrolment code on their starter letter or by telephoning 0345 026 8982.  If they have missed the deadline you can withdraw from the scheme using form OPT2DC but they will not get a refund.

The Contract Templates and Casual Letters of Engagement have a standard attachment explaining auto-enrolment to new starters.

Whenever an existing member of staff is issued a new contract they will be re-assessed for auto-enrolment and if they are found not to be a current member of an eligible pension scheme (for example, because they have previously opted out) they will be automatically re-enrolled into the appropriate pension scheme.  If they do not wish to remain a member they must opt out again.

 An individual may not opt out until after they have been enrolled, i.e. after their start date. Anyone wishing to opt out should be directed to the relevant Pension Scheme website.

OSPS members cannot opt out from the start using a form. They have to do this online on the Legal and General website.

Staff whose place of work is not in the UK are excluded from the requirements of the auto-enrolment regulations. The regulations offer no clear definition of what 'ordinarily working in the UK' means. It is important to consider what location is stated in the contract as the employee’s main place of work, and how this contract operates in practice. Location is clearly the most obvious guide, however the key criterion is whether or not the member of staff's work location is temporary (this is not time-limited), please refer to the below for examples:

  • A University employee usually based in Oxford who happens to be on a short trip abroad on their auto-enrolment Assessment Date is still considered as 'ordinarily working in UK', as long as the intention is to return to the UK.
  • A University employee on a CMS contract who is working abroad and is expected at the end of their work overseas to return to the UK is likely to be considered as ordinarily working in the UK, however long their work overseas lasts. However, in such cases other factors may also need to be considered, for example: does the employee pay National Insurance contributions, what currency they are being paid in, and where their private residence is.
  • A foreign national who is working in Oxford and for whom there is no clear expectation that they will leave the UK at the end of their work here is likely to be considered as 'ordinarily working in the UK'.
  • Someone working at the same overseas office who has been locally engaged or who is expected to return to a country other than UK at the end of this work is considered as not 'ordinarily working in the UK'.
  • Employees who are seconded to the UK from overseas, and remain to be primarily an employee of an external overseas employer, with an expectation to return to their normal country of work will not be considered as ‘ordinarily working in the UK’.

If there is any doubt, the balance of doubt should go in favour of treating the person as 'ordinarily working in the UK'.  Marie Curie researchers, for example, are to be treated as working in the UK for auto-enrolment purposes.

The University's HR System, Core, monitors and assesses staff eligibility for auto-enrolment, and departments should therefore advise the payroll team if an individual is considered to be not normally working in the UK so that the payroll record can be updated. 

The letters of engagement pro-forma includes an attachment about auto-enrolment.  This explains that in addition to the age and earnings-related eligibility criteria, for casual appointments there is also a 3 month deferral period, i.e. from the date that an individual becomes eligible for auto-enrolment their actual enrolment is deferred for a period of 3 months after which they are assessed again to ensure they remain eligible.

  • Casual Workers should not work on a casual contract for longer than 12 weeks and therefore they are unlikely to become eligible for auto-enrolment, however they may request to enrol in an eligible scheme (currently NEST) at any point
  • Casual teachers may be contracted for up to 12 months and therefore, if they meet the age/earning eligibility criteria after the three month deferral period they will be auto-enrolled.  If they are not eligible at the end of the period, their age and earnings will be monitored monthly.  The next time they meet the auto-enrolment criteria another three month deferral period will be applied. 

The Core system and pensions team are responsible for monitoring and assessing these appointments and will communicate with the individual member of staff in the event that an auto-enrolment action is triggered. No action is required by departments.

Casual workers and variable hours employees should be encouraged to submit regular monthly invoices/timesheets to ensure that the amount paid in a month accurately reflects the amount earned in that period.  This is because the auto-enrolment assessment process determines eligibility on the basis of the amount paid in each ‘pay reference period’. 

The pay reference period is normally a month (as we run a monthly payroll), regardless of the period of time to which the payment refers. 

Therefore, if a casual worker or variable hours contract employee submits claims for many months work on one invoice, or set of timesheets, to be paid as a total sum in one month, the payment amount for the month in which payment is made may appear to be over an auto-enrolment threshold and may trigger an auto-enrolment action which is not representative of the actual amount earned in a month. 

Further information on eligibility can be found on the Auto-enrolment overview page.

Notifications about auto-enrolment actions will be sent to staff by email. Please ensure that an email address is always included on the casual payment request form. 

Contact Us

 : Pensions Office
       University of Oxford
       23-38 Hythe Bridge Street
       Oxford OX1 2ET

 : OSPS -
       USS -
       NHSPS -
       NEST -
       Auto-enrolment -
 : General - (01865) 616133
       USS - (01865) 616067
       OSPS - (01865) 616020