Here’s a puzzle: so you’ve pulled some strings and booked Dolly Parton to come and perform in a one month tour of your UK offices over the Christmas period.  Does this mean you’d have to auto-enrol Dolly in your pension scheme?

Employers’ auto-enrolment obligations apply to ‘workers’.  That means anyone with a contract of employment or a contract personally to perform work or services which is not as part of his own business (i.e. who isn’t self-employed).

Now, in the real world Dolly would no doubt be exempt from auto-enrolment because she would be contracting directly as part of her own business or through another company.  But, if she were genuinely employed as a ‘worker’ on a one-month contract in the UK, would the employer have to auto-enrol her even though she is not ordinarily resident in the UK and no doubt has her own rhinestone-encrusted retirement provision in the USA?

The extent of an employer’s obligation to auto-enrol a worker depends on whether he is an ‘eligible jobholder’; ‘non-eligible jobholder’; or ‘entitled worker’. A handy table summarising the types of worker is below. An even more handy flowchart is provided by the Pensions Regulator.

Type of worker Age Working status Earnings
(all pro rata per annum)
Auto-enrolment duty
Eligible jobholder 22 – State Pension Age Working or ordinarily works in the UK Currently £9,440+ Must be auto enrolled into a ‘qualifying scheme’,
employer pays contributions
Non-eligible jobholder (1) 16-74 Working or ordinarily works in the UK Currently between £5,668 and £9,440 Can opt into the employer’s ‘qualifying scheme’. If they do, the employer must pay contributions
Non-eligible jobholder (2) 16-21 or State Pension Age-74 Working or ordinarily works in the UK Currently £9,440+
Entitled worker 16-74 Working or ordinarily works in the UK Currently below £5,668 Can join a pension scheme but there is no obligation for the employer to contribute.


Dolly is 67 (a gentleman never asks, so many thanks, Wikipedia) and so past her State Pension Age. This rules her out as an eligible jobholder. Making the fairly safe bet that she is earning more than £9,440 p.a. (pro rata) she would be a non-eligible jobholder if she is ‘working’ or ordinarily working in the UK.  Is she?  This assessment is more complicated than it sounds and again, the Pensions Regulator has provided helpful guidance.  In essence if the contract specifies that she is to work in the UK, then the Pensions Regulator would deem her to be working in the UK and she would be able to opt in to the employer’s pension scheme and require you to contribute!

What a way to make a living.  The auto-enrolment rules contain no express requirement that the work in the UK must be of any minimum length, but it is possible by inference to conclude that it must last at least a week.  So should you need any encouragement to keep a tour with Dolly short, do aim for less than that.