UK: Auto-Enrolment Update – Case Law And Trigger Changes

Last Updated: 19 February 2016
Article by Elmer Doonan and James Borshell

Auto-enrolment update

Key points:

  • The Queen on the application of Fleet Maritime Services (Bermuda) Limited v. The Pensions Regulator [2015] EWHC 3744 confirms when peripatetic (basically "mobile") workers, who spend time outside the UK, are covered by an employer's auto-enrolment duties.
  • The new qualifying earnings band for auto-enrolment minimum contributions will apply from April 2016 and remains based on the national insurance upper and lower earnings limits. The trigger for auto-enrolment remains at last year's level of the equivalent of £10,000 per annum in any pay period. 
  • Looking forward, the increased minimum contribution requirements are moving to April 2018 and April 2019 to match the tax year, and we may have big pensions tax relief upheavals to look forward to in the next Budget.
  • Finally the DWP is introducing another set of limited changes to simplify auto-enrolment to take effect from April 2016.

Auto-enrolment has been through a bit of a rollercoaster of media attention. Currently interest is at a bit of a low ebb despite the efforts of Workie the Workplace Pension, who we have to admit to having a soft spot for, and occasional discussions on micro-employers and Regulator updates on its enforcement efforts. 

But, as with all things, auto-enrolment being out of sight does not mean that employers can put it out of their minds. This update sets out some standard statutory change information on triggers and qualifying bands and perhaps the first case on who is actually covered by the employer's auto-enrolment duties in a borderline case. 

The Queen on the application of Fleet Maritime Services (Bermuda) Limited v. The Pensions Regulator [2015] EWHC 3744

This case considered how the auto-enrolment employer duties apply to staff on cruise ships. The basic point of law is that the duties only apply to staff who work in Great Britain, or who ordinarily work in Great Britain (amongst other requirements). The basis of cruise ship employment is a journey from a port (which may or may not be in Great Britain), an extended period of work on the high seas, and then returning to port (which may be the same as the departure port, or not).

The question raised was whether someone who spends most of their tour outside of Great Britain can be said to be ordinarily working there. The Regulator took the view that they can, the employer that they could cannot. The court got to decide.

The court's decision can be summed up in a quote: 

"... a seafarer living in Great Britain, who spends most of their time in foreign waters, will ordinarily be working in Great Britain if they habitually join and leave the ship in Great Britain. However, a seafarer living in Great Britain, who spends most of their time in foreign waters, will not ordinarily be working in Great Britain if the ports where they join and leave the ship are outside Great Britain"

The decision itself is really only of interest to cruise ship operators and employers of other "peripatetic workers". However, the principles under which the court made its decision are very interesting. The court based its decision on the principles set out in Lawson v. Serco Ltd [2006] UKHL 3, [2006] ICR 250. This is an employment case considering whether employees could challenge their employers on grounds of unfair dismissal when they were based overseas. Thus the employment "base test" applies and in certain cases an employer may well have no base.

This case therefore confirms what we have suspected for a while. When faced with questions on the territoriality of the auto-enrolment obligations, the court is likely to approach things from an employment law basis. Given the fact that many of the same considerations apply, and the in-depth judicial consideration that has gone into this area of case law, this seems eminently reasonable. 

Triggers and earnings bands

As readers of a legal alerter on auto-enrolment will be all too aware, the employer duties are closely linked to a number of annually updated figures set out in legislation.

The first, which is not due to change for the coming year, is the earnings trigger for workers to be auto-enrolled. This has been frozen at the equivalent of £10,000 in any pay period. 

Qualifying earnings are what contributions need to be based on. These remain aligned to national insurance. For 2016/17 this means that minimum contributions would need to be paid on earnings between the equivalent of £5,824 and £43,000 per annum.

Simplification 2016!

Every year it seems the DWP is looking at blunting the sharp edges of auto-enrolment. This year's proposed 'simplification' will take in the following technical changes to the auto-enrolment requirements:

  • Exceptions from the requirement to auto-enrol/re-enrol  employees who also hold office as a company director, and members of Limited Liability Partnerships (see our Clyde & Co case alerter for some background see
  • Clarification of when the requirement to auto-enrol/re-enrol does not apply where a member has received a winding up lump sum in the recent past.
  • Provisions to protect members with the new transitional pension savings protections when the annual allowance drops to £1m this year.
  • A simplified timescale for employers to notify the Regulator that they maintain an auto-enrolment pension scheme.
  • A simplified method for an employer to bring forward its staging date.

Consultation closes on 16 February 2016.


Things to look forward to on auto-enrolment. 

In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced plans to move back the dates for the increases to minimum contribution requirements (basically minimum contribution 5 per cent, including a 2 per cent employer contribution, and then minimum contribution 8 per cent of which 3 per cent needs to be employer contribution), which had been due to come into effect on and from October 2017 and October 2018 respectively, to April 2018 and April 2019. This seems sensible, although it does mean a little less going into employee pension savings for those employers sticking to the letter of the law.

Then we have the potential upheaval in pensions tax. We will not go into that here as we have covered this in other places, but we wait with bated breath for the next Budget, where we will find out whether pensions in the UK (including auto-enrolment pensions) will need a bit of a tweak for flat rate tax relief, or whether we should all move into ISA advice toute suite.

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
6 Sep 2018, Business Breakfast, Glasgow, UK

Decarbonising our heat is a key component of The Scottish Energy Strategy and an essential piece of the complex matrix we must tackle if we are to meet our climate change obligations.

11 Sep 2018, Business Breakfast, Milton Keynes, UK

Join us for our next development breakfast round table event reflecting on the on-going planning discussion regarding the Oxford-Cambridge corridor and helping you consider how best to cash in on the exciting opportunities by considering the benefits of promotion and option agreements.

20 Sep 2018, Seminar, London, UK

Environmental regulation and liability have risen up the boardroom agenda over the past decade. Recent changes to environmental sentencing have brought this area of risk even more into focus.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Wedlake Bell
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Wedlake Bell
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions