Know your staging date

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Your staging date is the date your automatic enrolment duties start and is based on the number of people in your PAYE scheme as at 1 April 2012.

You can find out your likely staging date by checking staging dates by PAYE scheme size or by using The Pensions Regulator (TPR) staging date tool.

TPR will write to the chief executive of each organisation approximately twelve and three months prior to the staging date. If you feel you should have received a letter but have not then you should write to providing details of your PAYE reference number. It is also useful to nominate a contact person to directly receive any correspondence from TPR.

The following guidance has been designed to assist you in preparing for your staging date:

PAYE and automatic enrolment

Employers with more than one PAYE scheme will share a staging date determined by the largest of them (assessed by number of persons in that PAYE scheme) as at 1 April 2012.

Bringing forward your staging date

You may wish to bring forward your staging date to align it with another key date in your financial or operational calendar (eg the beginning of the financial year).

If you bring forward your staging date, you cannot revert back to your original staging date. Where two or more employers share a PAYE scheme and therefore have the same staging date, each employer may bring forward their staging date independently. The employer, rather than the payroll provider, must make this decision

To bring forward a staging date the employer must:

  • have secured the agreement of the trustees or managers, provider or administrator of the pension scheme you have chosen
  • notify TPR in writing (letter, fax or email) at least one calendar month before the new, earlier staging date you choose.
TPR have provided detailed guidance on the requirements for making a request to bring forward your staging date.

Postponement and transitional period


Postponement can be used:

  • the first day of employment for a new joiner following your staging date
  • at your staging date for any existing workers
  • the date a worker meets the criteria to be an eligible jobholder following your staging date.

Postponement suspends the duty of assessment. This period can be from one day up to maximum of three months and can vary by individual. You can only use one postponement at a given time for each worker and you cannot overlap two postponement periods. Individuals still have a right to opt in during postponement.

Generally postponement would be in respect of a single worker, however you can choose to use postponement from your staging date for a group of workers. You must issue all workers with a notice of postponement using specific wording, guidance for which is available from the TPR website. Template letters for all communications are available on our communications web page.

The decision to use postponement must be made in advance. You must issue a postponement notice to each employee for whom you are using postponement. The deadline for issuing the postponement notice is six weeks and a day from which you wish to use postponement. If the notice is not issued, postponement cannot be applied.

You must assess the worker on the last day of postponement and automatically enrol is an eligible jobholder. If eligible, no further postponement can be applied. If the worker is not eligible on assessment you must monitor each future pay reference period. Please note that from 1 April 2014 the pay reference period will be increased from one month to six weeks.

If in a future pay reference period the worker again meets the criteria for being an eligible jobholder, the employer may use postponement again as above. It is important to note however that in addition to automatic enrolment duties, the individual may have a contractual right to NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) membership.

It is important to note however that in addition to automatic enrolment duties, the individual may have a contractual right to NHSPS membership.

Transitional period

The option to apply a transitional period can only be used at your staging date. The transitional period for defined benefit schemes allows the employer to choose to delay the automatic enrolment of certain workers until 30 September 2017, however you must still meet employer duties under the automatic enrolment legislation.

It is an employers decision regarding whether to use the transitional period and you can only use it for the following workers:

  • employed by you before the staging date
  • aged between 22 and state pension age on the staging date
  • meet the eligible jobholder earnings criteria
  • are not restricted from active membership of NHSPS.

The transitional period will not apply to the following workers:

  • workers who do not qualify as eligible jobholders on your staging date
  • new starters following your staging date
  • workers not eligible for NHSPS
  • any worker who requests to join NHSPS during the transitional period.

You will not receive a new staging date if you use the transitional period. The end date of 30 September 2017 is fixed in time and cannot be brought forward. The employer must ensure that workers continue to have access to a qualifying scheme and must not remove this right during the transitional period.

Points to consider before choosing to use the transitional period:

Financial: It is essential to carry out an assessment of workers prior to the staging date, you will need to identify those with restricted access to active NHSPS membership and those outside of the age and earnings thresholds for automatic enrolment. This will help minimise the likelihood of penalties for incorrect use of the transitional period.

ESR: You will have to run a dual track approach if you choose to use the transitional period and this may add to administrative complexities. You must continue to assess new joiners and those restricted from joining the NHSPS.

Postponement: If you choose to use the transitional period you cannot also apply postponement to these workers.

Contractual entitlement: An individual can choose to opt-in (due to their contractual right) at any point during the transitional period, this right is not deferred by the employers decision to use the transitional period.

Workforce strategy: The policy intent behind the automatic enrolment legislation is that employers should encourage their staff to start saving for their retirement at the earliest possible opportunity. Delaying automatic enrolment until 2017 goes against this intent.

What you must do: You must write to affected workers within one month of the staging date to advise them you are applying the transitional period and of their right to opt in to the NHSPS at any point.

On 1 October 2017 you automatically enrol, or postpone eligible jobholders. If not eligible in that pay reference period you must monitor each future pay reference period. There is no requirement to seek permission to use the transitional period, however you must notify TPR that you have used it as part of the TPR registration process.

Mergers, TUPE transfers and reorganisations

After 1 April 2012 reductions to the number of persons in an employer's PAYE scheme will have no effect on your staging date.  

If employers merge after 1 April 2012 and both employers retain the existing contracts of employment for their workers, the staging date of the merged entity will be determined by the largest PAYE scheme of the merging employers.

For example, where one employer with a staging date of 1 September 2013 merges with a larger employer with a staging date of 1 April 2013, the staging date of the merged entity will be 1 April 2013. Even if the payroll providers remain separate, the staging date will still be based on the staging date for the largest PAYE scheme. Anyone in a merger situation should seek specific legal advice for their situation.

Clear records should be retained and TPR will need to be informed that the smaller organisation no longer exists as a separate entity for the purposes of automatic enrolment.


Most public sector employees are protected by the policy set out in HM Treasury note; A Fair Deal for Staff Pensions and the proposed final agreement.

Where an employer receives transferring employees under TUPE, the transferring employees are treated as new recruits for the purposes of auto enrolment. If the new employer has already reached or passed its staging date, the duty to auto enrol transferring eligible jobholders will apply at the date of the transfer, although the right to postpone assessment for up to three months will still exist.

Where an individual transferred employee is restricted by scheme rules from active NHSPS membership, then the new NHS employer must establish a minimum level of pension provision for the transferred employee which is greater than the statutory minimum required under automatic enrolment. This minimum safety net requires the new employer to match contributions, up to 6 per cent of salary, into an alternative pension scheme.

New employers will need to ensure that, in addition to auto enrolment obligations for transferring employees, they also comply with their pensions obligations under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2008 (TUPE) and under the pension protection provisions in the Pensions Act 2004. This means that transferring employees who are not entitled to active membership within the NHSPS will be entitled to higher statutory contributions (match contributions up to 6 per cent) under TUPE, rather than under the statutory minimum for auto enrolment.

Further detailed guidance is available on the TPR website.


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