What are the contribution limits and earnings thresholds for employer pension automatic enrolment?

This is an 'At a glance' guide. Click here for detailed guidance (subscribers' version) to auto-enrolment together with links to sample letters for clients.

Contribution Levels
Both employee and employer make regular contributions to the employee's pension scheme under pensions automatic enrolment.

The minimum total contribution, which is made up of employer's and employee's contributions inclusive of tax relief, are based on a percentage applied to earnings above the threshold up to the upper limit which are linked to the NIC thresholds. The percentages increased during the transitional 'phasing' period as follows;

  Employers staging date Employer Employee Total minimum
contribution
Phase 1 To 05/04/18 1% 1% 2%
Phase 2 06/04/18 - 05/04/19 2% 3% 5%
Phase 3 06/04/19 onwards 3% 5% 8%

 

For example:

John earns £11,000 per annum. If his employer was required to auto-enrol him in 2016/17 the employer and employee will have to contribute a minimum of 2% of his salary in excess of the lower earnings threshold of £5,824, giving a contribution of £103.52 in total, of which at least half must be contributed by the employer. 

Note that the increases in total contributions to 5% and then 8% were originally scheduled to take place in October 2017 and October 2018.  The six month delay to align the increases with the tax year was announced at the Autumn Statement 2015.

There is an alternative contribution model, the Pensionable earnings basis

Pensionable earnings are the higher of:

  1. The employer's definition of pensionable earnings, and
  2. Basic pay (which excludes variable elements of pay such as commission, bonuses and overtime)

Under the pensionable earnings basis, contributions are based on the employee's earnings from £1 upwards and not by reference to earnings within the bandings.

Employers using a defined contribution scheme can choose not to base contributions on banded earnings if they satisfy one of the following minimum contributions requirements.

  Basis 1 Basis 2 Basis 3

Total Contribution

9% pensionable earnings 8% pensionable earnings 7% total earnings
Including employee contribution of up to 5% 5% 4%
Reference to total earnings None Pensionable earning must be no less than 85% of total earnings All earnings must be pensionable

 

Earnings thresholds

You are automatically enroled into your employer's pension when your earnings trigger the qualifying earnings threholds.

 

2020/21

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £6,240 £120 £240 £480 £520 £1,508 £3,120
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £50,000 £962 £1,924 £3,847 £4,167 £11,588 £25,000

 

2019/20

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £6,136 £118 £236 £472 £512 £1,508 £3,068
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £50,000 £962 £1,924 £3,847 £4,167 £11,588 £25,000

 

2018/19

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £6,032 £116 £232 £464 £503 £1,508 £3,016
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £46,350 £892 £1,783 £3,566 £3,863 £11,588 £23,175

 

2017/18

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £5,876 £113 £226 £452 £490 £1,469 £2,938
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £45,000 £866 £1,731 £3,462 £3,750 £11,250 £22,500

 

2016/17

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £5,824 £112 £224 £448 £485 £1,456 £2,912
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £43,000 £827 £1,654 £3,308 £3,583 £10,750 £21,500

 

2015/16

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £5,824 £112 £224 £448 £485 £1,456 £2,912
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £42,385 £815 £1,630 £3,260 £3,532 £10,596 £21,193

 

2014/15

Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £5,772 £111 £222 £444 £481 £1,443 £2,886
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £10,000 £192 £384 £768 £833 £2,499 £4,998
Upper level of qualifying earnings £41,865 £805 £1,611 £3,221 £3,489 £10,467 £20,933

 

2013/14Annual1 weekFortnight4 weeks1 month1 quarterBi-annual
Lower level of qualifying earnings £5,668 £109 £218 £436 £473 £1,417 £2,834
Earnings trigger for automatic enrolment £9,440 £182 £364 £727 £787 £2,360 £4,720
Upper level of qualifying earnings £41,450 £797 £1,594 £3,188 £3,454 £10,363 £20,725

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