What Happens If My Employer Hasn’t Paid My Pension Contributions?

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 14th May 2024

In the UK, employers must enroll eligible employees into a workplace pension scheme and make regular contributions on their behalf. But what happens if employers fail to fulfill this duty and what might the consequences be for employees? 

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If your employer doesn’t pay your pension contributions you lose valuable contributions that are essential for building your retirement savings. This can have a profound impact on your retirement planning.

In this article, we’ll explore what you can do if your employer hasn’t paid your pension contributions. 

Does my employer have to pay into my workplace pension? 

If you are a worker in the UK who meets certain criteria you have the right to be enrolled in a workplace pension scheme under the automatic enrollment scheme. As part of this, employers must pay into this scheme on your behalf based on a percentage of your earnings. You will also contribute a percentage of your earnings to the scheme. 

Am I entitled to a workplace pension?

Your employer must automatically enroll you into a pension scheme and make contributions to your workplace pension if: 

  • You’re classed as a ‘worker’ - this includes most employees, but can also cover casual workers or agency workers

  • You’re between 22 and State Pension age 

  • You earn at least £10,000 per year before tax

  • Your primary work location is in the UK (even if you occasionally work remotely or travel for work) 

If you don’t meet all of these criteria or if any specific circumstances apply to you, your employer may not have to enroll you automatically. These circumstances include giving notice to leave your job, having evidence of lifetime allowance protection, or opting out of a pension scheme more than 12 months before your staging date. 

Additionally, if your income doesn't meet certain thresholds, your employer does not have to contribute to your pension. 

What’s the minimum amount my employer must contribute to my workplace pension? 

If you’ve been automatically enrolled in a workplace pensions scheme, your employer must contribute a minimum of 3% of your qualifying earnings into your workplace pension scheme. 

If you’ve voluntarily enrolled, your employer must contribute the minimum amount of 3% if you earn more than £520 a month, £120 a week, or £480 over 4 weeks. If you earn less than this, your employer doesn’t have to contribute anything. 

These are the minimum contribution levels only, your employer may choose to contribute more depending on their chosen pension scheme. In any case, they should write to you if you have been automatically enrolled and tell you how much they’ll contribute and how much you’ll have to contribute. 

What happens if my employer doesn’t pay my pension contributions? 

If you think your employer has not been making pension contributions on your behalf, the first step is to gather evidence including pay slips, pension scheme documents, or communications with your employer regarding pension contributions.

This will give you a clear picture of how long it has been going on and how much has not been paid into your workplace pension. 

You should then raise the matter with your employer informally. The oversight may be unintentional, and be easy for them to fix. However, if your employer does not address the issue or deny any wrongdoing, you can escalate the matter by raising a grievance as per your company's internal processes. 

If your employer still refuses to address the issues, you can get help from The Pensions Regulator. They have the authority to investigate employers who fail to comply with their pension duties and can take enforcement action against them. 

In some cases, legal action may be necessary to recover unpaid contributions in an employment tribunal claim. Employment tribunals hear cases related to unpaid pension contributions and can order non-compliant employers to pay any outstanding amounts. 

How to report missing payments to your workplace pension

It can take up to 90 days for contributions to be paid into your workplace pensions. So, you should wait this amount of time, then speak to your employer about the issue. 

If

  1. Your pension contributions have not been paid for 90 days or more

  2. Your employer is unwilling to pay, contributions are being paid late regularly into your pension

  3. You think your employer may be acting fraudulently or dishonestly in relation to your contributions

You can report it to The Pensions Regulator using their Missing Workplace Pension Contributions online form. For this, you’ll need to provide: 

  • The name and address of your employer 

  • Your employer’s PAYE number (check your payslips, P60 or P45 for this) 

  • Details of how much money you believe is missing and when the payments were due

  • Any evidence you have to support your claim (i.e. your payslips or bank statements) 

Once you submit your complaint, the Pensions Regulator will assess whether your employer is fulfilling their legal obligations to make pension contributions and refer your concern for internal investigation if they consider it appropriate. 

What if my employer becomes insolvent without paying my pension contributions?

If your employer becomes insolvent without paying your pension contributions, and you’ve been made redundant, you may be able to claim contributions deducted from your pay but not paid into the scheme during the 12 months before your employer became unsolved through the National Insurance Fund

Additionally, through this scheme, you may claim unpaid contributions payable by the employer on its account for the 12 months before insolvency. Trustees or administrators of the pension scheme can apply for payment from the National Insurance Fund. Your pensions administrator or official receiver can help you with this.

If your employer becomes insolvent without paying your pension contributions and you are a member of an eligible defined contribution scheme you can reclaim your payments through the Pension Protection Fund

For payments beyond 12 months, you should become a creditor of the insolvent business and try to claim assets or funds from the business’s estate. 

Can I take my claim to an employment tribunal if my employer hasn’t paid my pension contributions?

Employment tribunals can adjudicate various employment-related disputes, including money claims by a former employee for underpaid employer pension contributions. 

If you believe you are owed unpaid pension contributions, you can submit a claim to the tribunal, outlining the details of the underpayment along with relevant evidence. The tribunal will then assess the claim, hear evidence from both parties, and make a decision based on the facts and applicable employment law. 

If the tribunal finds in your favour, they can order your employer to pay the outstanding pension contributions owed, along with any associated interest or compensation. 

If you are considering claiming unpaid pension contributions via an employment tribunal claim, you should first speak to an employment law solicitor about your claim. They can help you understand the strength of your case and support you through filing a claim with the employment tribunal. 

How can Lawhive help?

If you are an employee, and your employer hasn’t paid your pension contributions or is repeatedly paying them late, they’re not fulfilling their legal obligations.

While, more often than not, speaking to your employer is enough to put things right and resume normal service on contributions, sometimes the reasons for non-compliance with pension contributions are more complex. In these situations, it’s important to understand your rights, and who you can turn to to claim back what you are rightfully owed. 

As mentioned in this article, The Pensions Regulator and Pensions Ombudsman offer avenues for making a complaint and claims for unpaid pension contributions. 

If you are considering making a claim, our network of pension dispute solicitors is on hand to provide expert advice quickly.

Contact our Legal Assessment Team to find out more and get a free case evaluation. 

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