The recurring nightmare of uploading pension contributions

Published on

March 9, 2021

Payroll administrator frustrated by failed pension upload

"What do I need in the header row again?"

Pension Providers' CSV templates are notoriously complex - so much so that you often resort to just typing the numbers in on the website. It's not a great process. You have hundreds of pension clients, and in a typical month you might spend a week or more just keying in contribution data. Of course when you are manually keying contributions there is always the chance of human error - after too many hours and days of repetitive data entry, the screen starts to blur a bit and it's harder to be sure you're being accurate. But your software doesn't produce the file format you need, and messing around with the templates takes longer than manually entering the data. And it's particularly frustrating because you can get the actual figures out of payroll easily enough... why can't the pension provider just accept a simple CSV file?

This isn’t a phenomenon limited to just one pension provider. The trouble is that pension data is necessarily complicated, so providers produce excellent file formats that expertly navigate all the required complexity and superbly detailed guidance to help their customers to navigate successfully through the data minefield. Nest’s Employer Payroll Guide is 127 pages long - you certainly can’t say they haven’t provided enough information to get the files right, but for the typical small employer, or an accountant or bookkeeper acting on behalf of an employer, it’s too much detail to digest. The People’s Pension’s Uploading your employee data file guide is a comparatively trim 19 pages, but even then it’s quite difficult for these types of user to produce the required 38 columns of data, plus header and trailer records, from scratch. 

Shouldn’t your payroll software do it for you?

The natural saviours here are payroll software providers, whose product development teams can build ready-made export files to cover pension providers’ needs. Some software products have API connectivity, which remove the CSV exports from the process altogether, allowing pension data to be transferred electronically in a similar way to RTI. If your software uses a PensionSync integration for this, you’ll find that this digital plumbing covers the majority of your clients’ pension schemes and it works seamlessly. 

But your payroll software doesn’t have a PensionSync integration. You’ve not been able to get the non-PensionSync API working - and that is only for one or two providers anyway. In the absence of an inclusive API that works, you’re stuck with CSV pension exports. The software only produces these in a limited number of formats, which don’t work with most of your clients’ pension schemes. So once again, you’re back to the recurring nightmare of shoe-horning data into pension provider CSV templates, or giving up and manually keying it into their websites.   

Isn’t there a better way? 

What if the most basic of CSV files could be uploaded quickly and easily with no messing around required? What if you could do that in seconds for your client, and even do it as a single bulk upload for ALL your clients in next to no time at all? 

PensionSync Flexible File Upload is a simple bulk upload tool which accepts any CSV file from ANY payroll software as long as it contains the basic information required by the pension provider. For uploading contributions to Nest, for example, we can accept a file with no header or trailer records and as few as 6 columns of data: 

  1. EmployerID (this is the Nest scheme reference)
  2. Pay period end date (so we know which contribution schedule the contributions relate to)
  3. NI numbers
  4. Employer contribution amount
  5. Employee contribution amount
  6. Pensionable earnings amount 

PensionSync obtains enough information about the scheme directly from Nest to fill in the rest - the system already knows the Group and Payment Source values, the payment due date, and various other details, so it doesn’t need you to supply these in your file (although you can do if you want to).  

No more fiddling around with templates, and no more manual keying of data. Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

If you are a payroll bureau looking to simplify your payroll-to-pension processing sign up for your free trial to try out PensionSync for yourself.

Dan Donovan

Dan Donovan

Head of Customer Experience

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