Everything you need to know about automatic enrolment and your employer duties.

View our user guide (PDF, 29MB)


  • What does the Automatic Enrolment Portal (AE Portal) do?

    The AE Portal provides online access to your HR/Payroll teams, to help manage your key automatic enrolment duties:

    • Assessment
    • Communication
    • Enrolment, and
    • Record keeping/reporting

    Once you upload your HR information into the AE Portal, it will:

    • Validate the formatting of your employee data to make sure we can assess and enrol all eligible employees
    • Perform an early assessment and data validation prior to your staging date. However, segmentation into outcomes and enrolment of members can only take place on or after staging date (including staging dates brought forward).
    • It assesses your employees and sorts them into categories, based on their eligibility for automatic enrolment.
    • Provide legislatively compliant communication templates to help you to inform your employees about their assessment outcomes. Alternatively Scottish Widows can issue the communications on your behalf.
    • Manage the enrolment of eligible employees into your retirement savings scheme via a straight through process
    • Provide reports to support auditing of pay reference period activity and the Pensions Regulator's ongoing reporting requirements


    Once assessment has completed, does the employer have to do anything to enrol employees into the scheme?

    No, once you approve the assessment, your eligible employees will be automatically enrolled into the retirement savings scheme by Scottish Widows. They will usually be uploaded onto the Money4Life Platform by the next working day.

  • What are the file formats for data upload, reports and communications data?

    All files you're uploading need to be in Comma Separated Values - or CSV - format. The files we supply are also in this format.


    How long does the process take each pay reference period?

    If you have up to 500 employees it should only take around 15 minutes per paycentre, each pay reference period. This includes upload and assessment of the data, approving the assessment and receiving the deductions data file.


    Can user/administrator access be restricted?

    Yes, each user or 'administrator' can be restricted to one or more paycentre (payroll) 'pay reference period' and can be given different levels of permission across the AE Portal. You need to contact Scottish Widows to set this up.


    Why do I need to provide data each pay reference period?

    The system needs the latest payroll information to make sure the correct assessment is made each pay reference period. This includes cross-referencing the data with the records held on the system.

    Continuous assessment of some employees is legally required, but the main benefit is that it allows us to update member data on the system by comparing the latest payroll data to the information we hold. This is in line with the Pensions Regulator requirements.


    Why does the assessment need to be approved each pay reference period?

    Firstly, it allows data to be uploaded as separate files for a single paycentre. It also makes sure we see the complete picture for each paycentre before outcomes are actioned.

    It also acts as a validation step where you can make a reasonable review of the outcome to check it's in line with your expectations. What's more, it means we don't progress outcomes where there may have been a data error, such as a decimal place having moved one step on gross qualifying earnings.


    Does the AE Portal handle opt-ins and joining?

    The AE Portal will not collect and validate opt-in or joining notices from your employees. You are required to collect and validate these notices and notify them to Scottish Widows in your regular data upload.


    Will the AE Portal handle the opt-out process for me?

    Scottish Widows offers two methods of opting out of the retirement savings scheme; online opt-out through the member website and telephone opt-out. Both are only available during the employee's opt-out period. We will verify the opt-out notice and process it on your behalf. Employees will be told when their opt-out period ends in their welcome pack.

    You'll receive a daily notification of any workers who opted out the preceding working day. This notification will also include enough information for you to re-create the notice and store it for record-keeping purposes.


    Do you perform any ongoing monitoring of members ceasing membership of our scheme for re-enrolment purposes?

    Records are kept to reflect the change in legislative status for employees who are already active members of a scheme, or who leave active membership. If they have not been eligible jobholders during their membership of the scheme they will be enrolled in the pay reference period their earnings or age makes them eligible.

    This also applies to re-enrolment - if an eligible jobholder is not making qualifying contributions on the re-enrolment date, they will be re-enrolled at qualifying contribution levels.


    Will you provide records to the Pensions Regulator on my behalf?

    No. Scottish Widows will only provide data to you, to enable you to register with and report to the regulator.


    When legislative changes are required (such as changes to the lower level of qualifying earnings, earnings trigger or upper level of qualifying earnings change), how will these be applied to the system?

    Scottish Widows will update all values (e.g. earnings trigger) in good time prior to the effective date, usually as soon as they have been confirmed by government. You will be able to view future values on the AE Portal.


    Can employees access the AE Portal?

    No. The AE Portal will not offer access to employees and will only be accessible by the administrators specified by you. However, once they've been enrolled, employees can access their retirement savings plan through the Money4Life Platform.


    Once the system is set up, will the automatic-enrolment processes run automatically (i.e. straight through processing) or will there be a requirement for an administrator to be involved?

    Data will need to be uploaded manually and the outcome of each pay reference period will have to be approved manually (i.e. a confirmation step).

    This enables the administrator to correct any errors or re-submit data for employees who have been excluded with errors or warnings. It also provides you with an overview of any actions that will be taken and predicted outcomes for the next pay reference period.


    What happens if an employee wants to opt out?

    Employees can opt out online via their retirement savings plan account, or by contacting Scottish Widows by phone. They will only be able to opt out after they've received their welcome pack that gives them their log in details.

    All opt-outs are handled by the Scottish Widows system and will only be used by the AE Portal to allow re-enrolment of eligible employees as necessary.


    What happens if a member is outside of their opt-out period?

    Members will not be allowed to opt out if they have gone past the end of their opt-out period. They will be entitled to move to Ceased Active Membership (this is where any payments received will remain invested in their plan, but the member can choose not to make any future payments).


    Why does a member appear on both the started and completed tab of the same report?

    If the member opts out prior to 15:30, they may appear on both the started and completed tabs of the same report.

    If they opt out later in the day, they are likely to appear on the started tab the following day and the completed tab the day after.

    Please make sure you've updated your payroll system to reflect opt outs prior to running payroll to ensure that you don't get lots of invalid records whilst attempting to process payroll.

    We'll inform you of this change via the Payroll Regular Contribution Expectations Report, which is produced on the first day of each pay period. This shows you of effective contribution expectations for the new pay period. Members who have AE Ceased Contributions are shown in the Employer and Employee Contribution columns.

    If you haven't yet submitted payments for a previous pay period, the system will still expect a payment for a member who has moved to Ceased Active Membership for those pay periods.


    Why do I need to pay by direct debit?

    Direct debit is the most efficient way for us to collect payments - but this is this is not a direct debit in its conventional form. Scottish Widows will not collect any money from your account unless you've approved the amount. The process is solely controlled by you, the employer.

    The money is only taken once your administrator has logged onto the Money4Life Platform, uploaded a 'CSV file' and submitted the record. If the process is completed by 5pm the amount will be debited in 4 working days, should the process be completed after 5pm the process will be delayed by +1 day.

  • Can you tailor the communications from the portal?

    Although the AE Portal doesn't allow for customising the logo and branding, the communications documents are 'dynamic', meaning specific employee data will be inserted. So, all the information will be unique to the individual, for example, using their salary, contributions and specific tax information - like considering whether they are contributing through 'salary sacrifice'.


    What communications do I have to send to my employees?/When do I need to send communications to my employees?

    • Announcement letter or email and Key Facts: As soon as possible before your staging date - download the documents from the Communications area in the Scheme set up section of this site or, if you asked us to, we'll send the Key Facts to you.
    • Assessment results letter: After the assessment has been completed on the AE Portal, legislation requires you to do this in six weeks.
    • Welcome pack: Scottish Widows sends this to your employees after enrolment


    What communications materials do I need and where can I find them?

    You'll find a range of marketing materials and templates in the Communications area in the Scheme set up section of this site. You can download them and print. Use our 'Guide to Effective Communications' to help plan your campaign.


    Will Scottish Widows print my communications materials for me?

    Scottish Widows will print the statutory communications, including the Key Facts but you need to let us know when you fill in your Scheme Activation Form.


    Will Scottish Widows deliver my communications materials for me?

    Yes, the Key Facts will be delivered to you and the statutory letters sent to your employees, but you need to let us know when you fill in your Scheme Application Form.

  • What is a 'payment tier'?

    These are the four different ways to make up the retirement savings plan payments for you and your employees. Essentially, the payment categories are set up in date-driven tiers that are used to determine the employer and employee payment due. When the next tier date is reached, the system will automatically increase the payment expectation to the next default payment level.

    You can choose which suits your company best. See the payments page for more information.


    There are only four tiers to choose from, but aren't there more than this?

    Yes, there are more available - but we're not offering them as part of the A-Z solution, as they represent a more complicated approach that we don't feel is appropriate or necessary for this scheme.


    What is the default investment?

    In line with the rules for automatic enrolment, all employees' payments will be put into the default investment when they are enrolled. This is a range of funds chosen by Scottish Widows or Aon (depending on which default you chose on your Scheme Activation Form). These funds have been chosen to spread the risk evenly over the lifetime of the plan. This is known as a 'lifestyle strategy'. All employees have the option to choose their own funds, if they wish, at any time during the lifetime of their plan. They can do this online using the member website.


    What is the difference between 'actively managed' and 'passively managed' funds?

    Active management funds

    Active funds buy and sell assets with the intention of maximising gains and minimising losses on your behalf. This means that fund managers react to market situations and take advantage of insights and opportunities as they arise. In recognition of the expertise needed to run funds this way, the charges are usually higher than passive funds.

    Passive management funds

    In contrast to active funds, a passive fund follows a stricter set of guidelines rather than trying to anticipate growth opportunities. Usually, a passive fund will aim to mirror the performance of a particular stock market index. The advantage of passively managed funds is their charges are likely to be lower than actively managed funds as there are fewer active analysts and managers involved.

    Whether the fund is active or passive, there is no guarantee that the fund manager will achieve the objectives described.