First, you should check your contract terms. In the past, pension rights have been determined mainly by the employment contract. However, a very important change to the law has come about in recent years called ‘pensions auto-enrolment’.
Many – although not all – workers are covered by pensions auto-enrolment. Whether or not you qualify will depend principally on your age and your earnings.
The new law requires every employer to automatically enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if they:
are aged at least 22 but under state pension age;
earn at least £10,000 a year; and
work or normally work in the UK.
The minimum contributions both parties must make under automatic enrolment are set by the government and are increasing gradually. Details of the rates can be found on the website of the Pensions Advisory Service, which also runs a helpline: 0800 011 3797.
Workers who are aged between 16 and 21, or between state pension age and 74, can ask to opt in if they earn over the £10,000 threshold.
Workers aged between 16 and 74 who earn below £10,000 but at least £6,240 can ask to opt in (April 2020 rates).
Workers who earn below that will be entitled to join a scheme but the employer won’t have to contribute.
It is against the law for any employer to:
induce workers to opt out of a qualifying pension scheme;
ask during recruitment whether they plan to opt out; or
penalise them in any way for enforcing their pension rights.