4.2.1 Section 3.2 - Overview of pension schemes of this guide tells you about the partnership pension account and how it works. Please read it before processing any partnership applications.

4.2.2 The Starter Pack tells new starters who are interested in opening a partnership account to visit the provider’s website for further information.

4.2.3 Annex 1D gives further information about contacting the provider. Members are responsible for obtaining information from the provider directly.

4.2.4 New starters complete the Pension Choices form and fill in the Partnership pension account application form found on the Member Forms page on the scheme website. New starters will send both forms to you. If the new starter applies for partnership within one month of the start of their employment, they are entitled to have the employer contributions to partnership backdated to the first day of service.

Employer actions

4.2.5 You are responsible for processing the forms. This means that the new entrant’s partnership pension account is not set up until you process the application form and details are sent to the provider.

The section below sets out the steps for you and your payroll to follow.

Actions for employer and payroll

Step 1

Check the Pension Choices form. This will show you that the new starter has chosen partnership. It is important to check that the applicant has signed and dated the form and that they have entered the correct employer details.

If the new starter has chosen partnership; have they sent you a ‘Partnership pension account application form’?

If YES, please go to step 2.

If NO, please contact the new starter and ask them to:

  • complete the ‘Partnership pension account application form’,
  • send the application form to you as soon as possible.

Please note: you may wish to remind the new starter that if they make their pension choice within one month of being enrolled or being told they have been enrolled (if later) you will backdate their choice to their first day of service.

You should not take any further action until the new starter has sent the application form to you.

Step 2

Check the application form to ensure that:

  • the new starter has entered all of their personal details on the application form, and signed and dated the form, and
  • (although the employee is not required to contribute anything) if they have chosen to contribute, they have shown their contribution as a percentage to one decimal place.

If any information is wrong, you will need to return the form to the new starter for amending, reminding them of the one-month choice period. If the one-month choice period lapses whilst you are sorting out enquiries, you should consider the circumstances as to whether or not you ‘unscramble’ contributions made to alphanuvos or premium on joining service (see ‘Unscrambling’, paragraphs 4.2.17 to 4.2.18). It is reasonable to do so if the new starter originally returned their form within the initial one month. However, you may decide against unscrambling if the new starter has caused unreasonable delays.

Step 3

Where the member returns their form within one month, instruct your payroll to begin making deductions from the new starter or rejoiner’s salary (if the member has chosen to contribute) and to unscramble alphanuvos or premium contributions if necessary (see ‘Unscrambling’, paragraphs 4.2.17 to 4.2.18).

Where the member returns their form after one month, their choice must be treated as a request to switch schemes. The member is therefore not enrolled into the partnership pension account until the first pay period two months after the date the option is made. However, you must ensure that your payroll provider is notified in sufficient time to ensure that the correct contributions (if the member has chosen to contribute) are taken from the relevant switching date. See Section 5 - Changing pension arrangements (paragraphs 5.9.1 to 5.9.2) for details of the switching process.

Proceed to step 4.

Step 4

Your payroll must then follow the Legal & General ‘Manage Submissions Interface Guide’ issued in EPN533 to correctly notify the provider of the new joiner and the contributions (both employee and employer) that will be made.

The employer contributions are in two parts, age related and matching:

  • You pay an age-related contribution for all partnership members whether or not the member contributes. The level of contribution depends on the employee’s age at the beginning of the current tax year (on 6 April last). The employer contribution page sets out the percentage contribution. You must review the age contributions each year. You will need to revise the contributions when a member moves into a different age band.

  • The employer matching contribution depends on whether, and how much, the member chooses to pay to partnership as a regular contribution. The employee will have confirmed whether they wish to contribute and, if so, the percentage level they wish to make on the application form. If the new starter has chosen to make an employee contribution, you will match this up to a maximum of 3% of the employee’s pensionable earnings. You will pay no more than 3% regardless of whether the new starter pays more than that. You can make a higher contribution in exceptional circumstances provided that these are justified on a case by case basis as necessary for recruitment and retention purposes. You must report all cases to the Scheme Manager, Cabinet Office, via You will need to ensure that your payroll provider and the pension provider are fully aware that non-standard contributions are to be paid.

Annex 4E provides examples and further information on how to calculate partnership contributions.

In addition to paying the age-related and matching contributions, you must also pay a mini ASLC of 0.5% of pensionable earnings to the Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote to cover the cost of benefits due as a result of death in service or ill health retirement. Section 3.5 (‘Paying for Civil Service pensions’) tells you more about this. It also gives you the deadlines you must meet for paying the contributions.

Step 5

Send the Pension Choices form to the Scheme Administrator. Do not send it to the provider. The Scheme Administrator will use this to confirm that the member’s pension record has been correctly updated through the interface and note the death benefit nomination.

If the member returned their form after one month and the choice is treated as a switch, the Scheme Administrator will assess the member’s record and advise whether a refund of contributions can be made through your payroll/payroll provider (as per the opting out process detailed in 4.1.52).

Employers’ regulatory responsibility

4.2.6 The partnership pension account is an occupational pension scheme under a Master Trust. It is therefore vital that you follow the correct procedures. Occupational pension schemes under a Master Trust are regulated by The Pensions Regulator, which means that the pension provider has strict guidelines to adhere to. If you do not follow these procedures, the provider may report you to The Pensions Regulator.

4.2.7 Your payroll must send contributions to the provider as soon as possible after being deducted from an employee’s pay. This is so that the member does not suffer a loss of investment opportunity. There is a statutory deadline under the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999, which requires the employee and employer contributions to be paid by the 22nd day of the month (19th day if paid by cheque) following the month in which they were deducted from the policyholder’s salary. You should, ideally, instruct your payroll to pay contributions within the shortest possible time.

4.2.8 The pension provider tells us of any employers who do not get payments and required information to them within the statutory set time limits.

Policy start dates

4.2.9 The pension provider will send a policy schedule to the member when the application has been processed. The start date on the policy schedule is unlikely to be the date the new entrant took up employment with the Civil Service or the day they signed their application form. The provider allocates the policy start date as the month in which they receive and process the first contributions. This can include backdated contributions but the policy schedule itself will not be backdated.

Cooling-off period

4.2.10 After applying for partnership, the member has a 30 day ‘cooling-off’ period in which to change their mind. The provider will write to you and refund both the employee and employer contributions if the member cancels their policy. You must arrange for the member to receive a refund of their contributions.

Sporadic earnings

4.2.11 Some employees do not receive regular pensionable earnings. This is particularly common with fee-paid staff who often invoice the employing department as and when they do work for them. If such a person opts to join partnership, you must follow the same process as outlined in 4.2.5 above.

4.2.12 The Pensions Regulator requirements mean that employers must tell the partnership provider if no contributions are to be paid in a particular month and the reason why.

4.2.13 The Legal & General guide ‘Manage Submissions Interface Guide’ (issued in EPN533) gives further information on what action to take where there are no pensionable earnings and therefore no contributions for a particular month.

Extending the deadline for new entrants

4.2.14 Sometimes new entrants, through no fault of their own, do not receive their Starter Pack until some way into their first months service. In these circumstances, you should encourage individuals to return their Pension Choices form as soon as possible, but you should still allow them one month to make their choice if they need it. On receipt of the form, you should process it as quickly as possible, backdating employer partnership contributions to the first day of service.

4.2.15 In this situation, or if there is a delay in processing the partnership application form, you will need to tell the new entrant that you will backdate any employee contributions to their first day of service. Therefore, significant arrears could mean a big deduction from one month’s pay. See ‘Unscrambling’ (paragraphs 4.2.17 to 4.2.18).

4.2.16 A new entrant can vary their initial contributions to avoid significant arrears being deducted from one month’s pay. Individuals might, for example, choose not to make contributions for the months that are backdated, and only contribute for the future. They could do this by indicating a zero contribution on their provider application form and then opting for an increase by completing a contribution change form.


4.2.17 If a new entrant is enrolled into alpha, nuvos or premium and they opt for partnership within one month of joining, you must fully backdate their choice of partnership to their first day of service.

4.2.18 This means that you (or your payroll) must:

  • refund to the employee any employee contributions paid, less income tax;
  • recover overpaid scheme ASLCs from Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote;
  • pay a backdated mini-ASLC to Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote to cover death and ill-health benefits;
  • work out employee (if applicable) and employer partnership pension contributions from the first day of service, and send these backdated contributions to the pension provider with the first payroll run following the member joining partnership.

The table below sets out the cash flows when you have to take unscrambling action.

Cashflows to unscramble contributions for new joiners and rejoiners

Paid to

How cost is met

Action by

Refund of alpha, nuvos or premium contributions

Employee (via payroll)

Offset against payments of employee contributions to Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote


Refund of ASLCs


Offset against payments of ASLCs to Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote



Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation   Vote



Backdated employee’s partnership contributions

Pension provider

Employee (via payroll)


Backdated employer’s partnership contributions

Pension provider

Employer (via payroll)


Contribution Equivalent Premium (CEP)

4.2.19 Prior to April 2016, part of the unscrambling process was the payment of a CEP to National Insurance Contributions Office (NICO). alpha, nuvos and premium scheme members were contracted out of S2P prior to this date. Paying a CEP bought them back into S2P for the period they were defaulted into alpha, nuvos or premium. A Certified Amount (employee share) of the CEP was deducted from any refund of contributions due. Contracting Out of the S2P ceased from April 2016 and therefore this process is not applicable to new joiners after this date.

4.2.20 Further guidance is available at

Employee leaves, having chosen partnership, before employer action is completed

4.2.21 If an employee applies for partnership but leaves before you have completed your action, you must honour the agreement and pay any outstanding contributions for the period the account runs from and to. In cases where someone has left your employment and has been taken off your payroll before you have had time to set up their account, your payroll must:

  • action the account with the application form and pay the age-related contribution,
  • ask the member to pay their contribution direct to the pension provider, and
  • check with the provider that the member has done so.

Your payroll must also find out the amount the member has paid so that they (payroll) can pay any outstanding matching contributions.

Member wishes to transfer other pension benefits into their partnership account

4.2.22 If a member chooses partnership and wishes to transfer any other pension benefits they may have into it, they can contact the new provider directly. Annex 1D gives further information about contacting the provider.

Ongoing payroll action

4.2.23 Your payroll must follow the Legal & General ‘Manage Submissions Interface Guide’ issued in EPN533 for ongoing action.

22 December 2021
Last updated:
29 September 2022