Published on: 20 January 2017 in Industry

Auto-enrolled pensions: are you getting yours?

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Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns has prepared an important guidance note for Directors UK members concerning your entitlement to a pension under new auto-enrolment rules.

Read on and find out what steps you need to take in order to opt-in to your various employers’ pension schemes.

This guidance note provides you with some important information regarding how production companies may be operating auto-enrolment pensions for freelance directors on their productions. Under this new requirement, employers have to offer a pension to all employees (staff or freelance) and automatically enrol those who meet certain basic age and pay criteria. Introduction of the scheme has been staged, with the largest employers (such as the BBC and ITV Studios) going first, but by now almost all production companies that you will work for should have reached their staging date.

Your employer should issue you with a notification about auto-enrolment into a pension when you begin an engagement, but they may notify you that there is a three-month “qualification” period, known as Postponement, which means that most freelance director engagements are unlikely to qualify for Automatic Enrolment. This can happen on each of your engagements, and as a result some of you may not actually receive pension contributions.

I have taken some advice on this from our own pension experts. Any employer is entitled to postpone the assessment of any new employee by 3 months. However, our expert says that this is only in relation to their requirement to auto-enrol you. It does not prevent you from notifying the production company yourself that you wish to have a pension before you are assessed and you can do this for every one of your engagements with them, or any future engagements with other production companies. This is called opting-in. If you meet the age and pay criteria (see table below), which pretty much all of you will, the law states that your employer has to pay pension contributions as well.

Age of UK worker
22 to State Pension Age 16 to 74 16 to 21 and SPA to 74 16 to 74
Earnings triggers and
Above £10,000, up to £43,000 Above £5,824 up to £10,000
Above £10,000, up to £43,000 Below £5,824
Employer must Auto-enrol Yes No No No
Employee choices May opt-out May opt-in May opt-in May ask to join a scheme
Employer must contribute Yes Yes Yes No


There is a little bit of admin to do on each engagement in order to claim this, but it is not too arduous. You have to send an opt-in request to your employer. Details of how to opt-in should be included in the letter you receive from your employer at the start of the engagement; if not, we recommend you address this to the senior person who arranged your engagement and ask for them to confirm in reply that they have actioned your request. The request must state your full name and address and should include ‘Pension Auto-Enrolment Opt-In Notice’ in the subject line of the email.

The content of the email must also contain the following statement: “I confirm I personally submitted this notice to Opt-in to your auto-enrolment pension scheme”.

Upon receipt of the email they should then send out the appropriate information and membership of their scheme will be established.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to retrospectively opt-in to an Automatic Enrolment Scheme once the engagement has finished. Under the legislation there are mandatory communication requirements on the employer and an employee must be notified of their right to opt-in or join either during a postponement period or at any point in the future when they have been assessed and have not met the criteria. Therefore, the onus is always on the employee to make the request to opt-in if they are unlikely to meet the qualifying criteria.

Please note that not all production companies will use the same pension provider. Therefore your contributions may not be applied to the same personal account when you commence a new engagement. However, if you are contracted to a new employer and are either automatically enrolled or you make a request to opt-in to a pension scheme with a provider who already holds a personal account for you, your contributions will be paid into that account. This is because the pension provider will verify the employee based on their National Insurance Number.

If you have any further questions please contact us at [email protected].

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