Categories and definitions of employees and exemptions

All workers will fall into one of three categories:

  • eligible jobholders
  • entitled workers
  • non-eligible jobholders

A table summarising the different categories of worker for ‘automatic enrolment’ purposes is set out below. 

EarningsAge (Inclusive)
16 – 21
Age (Inclusive)
22 – State Pension Age
Age (Inclusive)
State Pension Age – 75
Under lower earnings threshold (£6,240*) Entitled worker
(can join a qualifying pension scheme)
Entitled worker
(can join a qualifying pension scheme)
Entitled worker
(can join a qualifying pension scheme)
Between £6,240 and £10,000*Non-eligible jobholder
(can opt into the automatic enrolment scheme)
Non-eligible jobholder
(can opt into the automatic enrolment scheme)
Non-eligible jobholder
(can opt into the automatic enrolment scheme)
Over earnings trigger for automatic enrolment (£10,000*)Non-eligible jobholder
(can opt into the automatic enrolment scheme)
Eligible jobholder
(must be automatically enrolled)
Non-eligible jobholder
(can opt into the automatic enrolment scheme)

*2021/22 figures

This is a worker

  • who is working or ordinarily works in Northern Ireland under the worker’s contract, and
  • who is aged at least 22 and under State Pension Age, and
  • to whom earnings of more than the annualised equivalent of £10,000 are payable by the employer in the relevant pay reference period.  It should be noted that if a worker has genuinely separate contracts then the earnings from each should be treated separately (not aggregated) when determining whether, in relation to a contract, the worker is an entitled worker, a non-eligible jobholder or an eligible jobholder.  Information and examples on how to determine earnings in a pay reference period can be found in  Detailed Guidance no. 3 on The Pensions Regulator’s website

This is a worker –

  • who is working or ordinarily works in Northern Ireland under the worker’s contract, and
  • who is aged at least 16 and is under age 75, and
  • to whom earnings of less than the annualised equivalent of £6,240 are payable by the employer in the relevant pay reference period.  It should be noted that if a worker has separate contracts then the earnings from each should be treated separately (not aggregated) when determining whether, in relation to a contract, the worker is an entitled worker, a non- eligible jobholder or an eligible jobholder.  Information and examples on how to determine earnings in a pay reference period can be found in Detailed Guidance no. 3 on The Pensions Regulator’s website

This is a worker –

  • who is working or ordinarily works in Northern Ireland under the worker’s contract, and
  • who is aged at least 16 and is under age 75 and to whom annualised equivalent earnings of £6,240 or more but less than or equal to £10,000 are payable by the employer in the relevant pay reference period, or
  • who is aged at least 16 and under age 22, or has attained State Pension Age and is under age 75, and to whom annualised equivalent earnings of more than £10,000 are payable by the employer in the relevant pay reference period.  It should be noted that if a worker has separate contracts then the earnings from each should be treated separately (not aggregated) when determining whether, in relation to a contract, the worker is an entitled worker, a non-eligible jobholder or an eligible jobholder.  Information and examples on how to determine earnings in a pay reference period can be found in  Detailed Guidance no. 3 on The Pensions Regulator’s website

This is a term that covers both eligible jobholders and non-eligible jobholders.

From 6 August 2015 there are four new exemptions to the employer duty to automatically enrol eligible members.

  • Workers in notice periods within six weeks of their automatic enrolment or re-enrolment date
  • Former members who have opted out in the last 12 months
  • Former members who opted out more than 12 months before the automatic enrolment date cannot be automatically enrolled. Instead, such individuals should be enrolled on the re-enrolment date
  • Individuals with tax protection against the lifetime allowance tax charge (primary protection, enhanced protection, fixed protection 2012, fixed protection 2014, individual protection 2014, and from 6 March 2017; fixed protection 2016 or individual protection 2016). N.B. Employers may wish to ask staff/new joiners if they have any of these protections.