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Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

Section 36: Automatic re-enrolment: exceptions where automatic enrolment deferred

Employers must automatically enrol workers who satisfy age and earnings criteria into a qualifying workplace pension scheme. However, they are allowed to postpone automatic enrolment by up to three months.

Where an employer has an open defined benefit or hybrid scheme which they intend to use for automatic enrolment, they may instead, and subject to certain conditions, defer automatic enrolment for jobholders who satisfy those conditions until the end of a transitional period in September 2017. At the end of that transitional period the individual must be automatically enrolled, provided that he or she satisfies the age and earnings conditions. However, an employer deferring automatic enrolment until the end of the transitional period may use the waiting period afterwards if they choose, which would postpone auto-enrolment by up to a further three months.

Automatic enrolment by the employer is compulsory: pension saving by the worker is not. An individual who decides not to continue saving into the scheme they have been automatically enrolled into may opt out within a specified window. This window is one month from the later of the date that the individual becomes an active member of the scheme and the date he or she is given the enrolment information by the employer. If, however, he or she continues to save into the scheme but subsequently decides to withdraw, he or she may cancel his or her active membership at any time.

The employer must carry out an automatic re-enrolment exercise approximately every three years to re-enrol those who opted out or cancelled their membership. The cyclical automatic re-enrolment dates are employer specific. Deferral dates and immediate re-enrolment dates are specific to the worker.

Under the Pensions (No. 2) Act, the employer’s re-enrolment duty could result in the permitted deferral or postponement period being curtailed as an employer’s cyclical re-enrolment date could fall within a period where an individual’s automatic enrolment date has legitimately been deferred or postponed. Section 36 removes the duty of the employer to automatically re-enrol an eligible individual if automatic enrolment has been postponed for a period of up to three months (section 36(2)) or deferred to the end of the transitional period in the case of a defined benefit or hybrid scheme (section 36(3)).

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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