HR 7 October 2016

Auto-enrolment: Why ‘ceasing active membership’ should be on your radar

Ceasing active membership enables employees who have opted in? to a pension scheme to choose to stop making payments
Co-founder at cloud-based payroll provider Paycircle, Jamie Costello, discusses the implications of this lesser-know aspect of the switch to pensions auto-enrolment for smaller employers.

A lot has been written about auto-enrolment, its impact on smaller businesses and their employees, and the technical nitty-gritty of opting in? or opting out.

Far less, however, has been written about the small matter of ceasing active membership, which is a particularly grey area of the whole auto-enrolment project.

it’s an area that all business owners should know about when doing their due diligence on pension schemes but one that, surprisingly, has been largely ignored by the media and industry alike.

Ceasing active membership

So what is ceasing active membership? In the simplest terms possible, it’s the facility within auto-enrolment that enables employees who have opted in? to a pension scheme to choose to stop making payments (whether temporarily or permanently) once an official opt out period has ended.

The Pension Regulator explains it as follows: A jobholder’s right to choose to opt out expires at the end of the opt-out period. If they want to leave the scheme after this, they can cease active membership in accordance with the scheme rules.

Now the words in accordance with the scheme rules? is where it starts to get interesting for business owners and indeed their employees. Essentially, what The Pensions Regulator is saying is that each individual pension scheme can decide its own position on ceasing active membership.

For example, research we carried out found that, under some schemes, the employer’s approval is required before someone can stop making payments. Other schemes, meanwhile, appeared to not want to allow people to stop contributions full stop.

Others still, by contrast, and the government-approved workplace pension scheme Nest is an example, appear to allow employees to stop making payments very easily with minimal input from the employer. According to the NEST website, the employer is simply informed after the event:

?You can take a break from paying contributions at any time if you want to. You just need to log into your online account, go to Contributions and then Contributions made by your employer. Then click on the button Stop contributions. Well let your employer know that you want to stop making contributions so that they can stop taking money from your pay.

There’s no doubt that many business owners will want to know whether the scheme they are about to sign up to a) allows employees who have opted in? to stop making payments, temporarily or permanently, and b) requires them to give their permission for an employee to stop contributions or lets the employee to decide themselves.