View from the Chamber, September 12

MANY people have asked the Chamber when automatic enrolment pensions will apply to their businesses.

The answer is that new duties will apply to companies according to their “staging date”. This is determined by the total number of employees in a scheme based on information from HMRC held at April 1 2012. Visit The Pensions Regulator’s interactive staging date tool to look it up – you’ll need to have your PAYE scheme reference to hand.

Before the staging date businesses will need to identify eligible and non-eligible workers. Workers are defined as those who work under a contract of employment, have a contract to perform work or services personally and are not undertaking the work as part of their own business.

Eligible jobholders who must be automatically enrolled are aged 22 to state pension age, working in the UK and earning above £9,440. If an individual is a director of a company and the company has no other employees, that individual is not generally deemed to be a worker. The company is therefore exempted from automatic enrolment registration.

Workers who have been automatically enrolled have the right to “opt out” of pension saving.

There is a set timescale within which jobholders can opt out of active pension scheme membership, known as the “opt-out period”. Jobholders are required to opt out by giving notice to the employer. The opt-out notice should be provided to the jobholder by the pension scheme, acting as a safeguard to ensure the jobholder’s decision is taken without influence from the employer.

When an employer receives an opt-out notice they must refund to the jobholder any contributions deducted from pay, within specific timescales. Equally, any money paid to the scheme by the employer must also be refunded.

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An employer cannot opt out of their duty to automatically enrol eligible jobholders into an automatic enrolment scheme. Opting out only refers to a jobholder’s right to opt out of ongoing pension scheme memberships.

“Non-eligible jobholders” have a right to opt in and “entitled workers” have a right to join. All have to be informed and records kept. For more information or a free consultation with Mike Melling from Tax Assist Accountants in Harpenden call 01582 760154 or email

Congratulations to Andrei Lussmann who opened his second restaurant in the district last week in Harpenden. We wish him great success with the new venture and I look forward to visiting soon to discuss hosting a Chamber networking event there! Another fantastic restaurant in the area is Bistro Paprika in Catherine Street, St Albans. A vintage bistro currently only open for lunch and run by a very charming husband and wife team it is well worth a visit, offering great concept, really delicious, well-presented food and exceptional service. Which reminds me, have you voted in the Food and Drink Festival Awards 2013? The closing date for votes is September 22.

We also welcome The Skin Shop to Chequer Street in St Albans, great to see another new retailer in the city, and surely a contender for the St Albans Fashion and Beauty Awards?

These awards will be part of St Albans Fashion Week from October 28 to November 3, incorporating a week of fabulous fashion, pop-up beauty parlours and a fashion show in St Albans Cathedral on Friday November 1.

According to organiser Ellie Ophira: “St Albans will be transformed into a fashion land with an entire week dedicated to fashion and beauty.” How absolutely fabulous I say! For more information go to or check out the Twitter feed at @StAFashionWeek

Our first business breakfast at Cote Brasserie was a complete sell-out and guests enjoyed great service at this very popular St Albans restaurant. The next Chamber event will be on Friday October 11, which is a political networking lunch with guest speaker Michael Gove MP. Sponsored by Oaklands College, the event is part of the Chamber’s commitment to help build strong links between education and employers and stressing the importance of learning the right skills for employability.

We have recently appointed a business administration apprentice in our office which is already proving to be very beneficial to the Chamber. Oaklands were very supportive screening suitable candidates for the role saving us lots of time and resources. We are delighted to be supporting a young person and helping them develop skills and gain work experience at the same time. We are very pleased with our new recruit Morgana Evans and would recommend speaking to Oaklands College if you need an extra pair of hands. The process is easy and the candidates we have seen have been of a high standard. Contact Mark Collins on 01727 737339.

For more information about joining the Chamber of Commerce and becoming a member go to If you have any questions about the Chamber and how we can help raise your company profile in the district, please give us a call on 01727 863054.