How to fix submit pension contribution errors

If you get an error when you submit your pensions contributions, use the steps below to help fix the issue.
An explanation for each error message will help you understand the terminology your pension provider is using.
A glossary of common terms can be found at the bottom of this article.
Detailed steps are listed to explain the cause of each error, and how to resolve them.


When comparing any details between Sage Payroll and your pension provider, they must be identical. This includes capital letters, lower case letters, special characters and leading or trailing spaces.

Before you begin

You may need to log into your pension providers portal to compare employee information. We would recommend having your pension provider portal login details handy.

When comparing any details between Sage Payroll (Sage Business Cloud) and your pension provider, they must be identical. This includes capital letters, lower case letters, special characters and leading or trailing spaces.

To find the full error message:
  1. Select Summary.

  2. Locate the Auto Enrolment / Pensions section.

  3. Locate the failed submission and select View Submission Details.

NEST submit pension contribution errors

An error occurred while creating the submission files. Please try again later. If the problem persists, please contact customer support

This error can be caused by your NEST credentials being entered incorrectly, or if a change was made to your NEST login email address.


Your NEST credentials are the login details for the NEST website portal.
To check your credentials, login to the NEST website (opens in a new tab).

If you can't log into the NEST website, speak to NEST to find out why the login is not working.

If you can log into the NEST website, re-enter your login details into Sage Payroll. This is done during the submission process:

  1. Select Summary.

  2. In the Auto Enrolment / Pensions section select View submission details.

  3. Select Submit Online.

  4. In the Enter your NEST login details screen delete and re-type your Username and Password, then select Submit.

If the same error message appears, or if you have changed your login email address please contact us so we update the login details on our systems.

The account credentials were not accepted by the provider. Please check them and try again

This error can be caused by your NEST credentials being entered incorrectly, or if a change was made to your NEST login email address.

Your NEST credentials are the login details for the NEST website portal.
To check your credentials, login to the NEST website (opens in a new tab).

If you can't log into the NEST website, speak to NEST to find out why the login is not working.

If you can log into the NEST website, re-enter your login details into Sage Payroll. This is done during the submission process:

  1. Select Summary.

  2. In the Auto Enrolment / Pensions section select View submission details.

  3. Select Submit Online.

  4. In the Enter your NEST login details screen delete and re-type your User name and Password, then select Submit.

If the same message appears, or if you have changed your login email address please contact us, so we update the login details on our systems.

You must provide a valid header or trailer record. Please ensure the payment source and frequency are correct, and that the payment due date is in the correct format – it should match an existing contribution schedule on the system. Please check your data and try again

You need to check the contribution file you are uploading.

The NEST header and trailer records refer to multiple parts of the pension contribution file you are trying to upload to NEST.
You will need to compare the payment source name and group name you created on the NEST Portal against the names they have in Sage Payroll.

If the names don’t match exactly, you will need to change them in Sage Payroll.

To check this in NEST:

  1. Log into the NEST website (opens in a new tab).

  2. Select Manage Payment Sources then Your Payment sources to find the payment source names you've created.

  3. Select Manage Groups then Your Groups to find the group names you've created.

To check and amend the payment source and group names in Sage Payroll:

  1. Select Pensions.

  2. Select Edit pension.

  3. To make a change select View / Edit.

If you have multiple groups set up in Sage Payroll, you will also need to check each employee, to make sure they are assigned to the correct group:

  1. Select Employees.

  2. Select the Employee name to open their record.

  3. Select Workplace pensions.

    The group name will appear in the Pension plan field.

  4. If you need to change the pension details, select Edit. Once you've made the changes select Save.

You can then re-try the submission. To do this select Summary then View submission details and then Submit Online.

If the same error appears after you've completed these steps, the contribution schedule on NEST does not match the schedule that Sage Payroll is submitting.

To fix this, speak to NEST to change the frequency on their portal to 'tax weekly or tax monthly instead of weekly or monthly.

There were no schemes retrieved from your pension provider. Check the details and try again

This error means some of the pension scheme details in Sage Payroll (usually the Employer Reference) do not match those on NEST.

To change these in Sage Payroll:

  1. Select Pensions.

  2. Find your NEST pension and select Edit Pension.

The Employer Reference needs to be identical to the NEST employer ID.

Group Name was not included because the associated pay period is set up incorrectly. Pay periods must align to tax periods. Please update the group information in your provider portal

The pay frequency set in Sage Payroll is different to the pay frequency setup with NEST.

This error means the frequency selected on your group on NEST doesn’t match the pay frequency you are using in Sage Payroll. When the periods Sage Payroll is submitting, don't match to a frequency on the NEST portal the information cannot be accepted by NEST.

To fix this, set up a new group on NEST with a frequency that matches Sage Payroll.

Sage Payroll pay frequencyFrequency to select on NEST
WeeklyTax Weekly
Monthly Tax Monthly
2-WeeklyFortnightly
4-WeeklyFour Weekly

If you are using 2-Weekly or 4-weekly you need to make sure that you have the contribution schedule set up on NEST to match the dates that Sage Payroll is trying to submit.

To see what Sage Payroll is submitting:

  1. From Pay Runs select the pay run you need to submit.

  2. In the Pension submissions section select View Submission Details.

  3. You will see the Pay reference period dates (from and to) above the list of employee contributions.

NEST have produced guidance to set up your new groups on their portal with the payment frequencies of Tax Weekly and Tax Monthly. If you have any queries about this process, please contact NEST directly or you can access this guidance on the NEST website (opens in a new tab).

Once you have set up the new group on NEST with the correct pay frequency, change the group name in Sage Payroll so it matches the new group you have set up:

  1. Select Pensions then select Edit Pension.

  2. To edit the group name select View / Edit.

  3. Change the name to be identical to the new group you set up on NEST, this includes capital letters, lower case letters, spaces and special characters.

You’ve already enrolled this member using this enrolment type. If you enrolled this member before and their enrolment status has changed then please choose the appropriate enrolment type and try again

This error occurs when the submission you are sending includes an enrolment file with an employee who has already been enrolled on NEST.

NEST do not accept a submission that duplicates something that has already been done.

To fix this, manually submit the affected pay run contributions file to NEST using the steps below:

  1. In Sage Payroll, select Pay runs then select the pay run for the failed submission.

  2. Select View Submission Error or View Submission Details.

  3. On the right-hand side of the screen select Manage Pension File.

  4. Select Regenerate CSV File. This will download a zipped folder onto your computer.

  5. Locate the downloaded folder and unzip it.

    There are two files in this folder; the enrolment file and the contribution file.

    You only need to upload the contribution File to NEST.

  6. To upload the file from Sage Payroll Select Manage Pension File and then Open NEST Portal followed by Manage Contribution Schedule.

Once you have successfully uploaded the file to NEST, go back to Sage Payroll and select Manage Pension File, and then select Confirm CSV Upload.

This marks the submission as having been done manually and clears the error message.

The scheme joined date cannot be in the future

This means an employee is enrolling in a pension scheme but their enrolment date is in the future.

For example if you were doing this on 28 April 2021 but the employees’ enrolment date is 1 May 2021, the submission cannot be accepted before the 1 May 2021.

To fix this, wait until the date specified in the error before you submit this pension contribution data to NEST.

The opt out ref number is missing

This means an employee has already opted out of the pension, but has not provided an opt out reference number.

The Opt out reference number is found on the notice to opt out of pension saving form that the member submitted to NEST.
If your employee opts out of the pension using the NEST online system, the submission should include their opt out reference number.

The steps to resolve the error depend on whether you have the opt out reference number.

To clear this error, you can follow the steps below:

If you have the opt out reference, you can edit the pay run in Sage Payroll to add the reference.

  1. Select Pay Runs, then select the relevant pay run you are trying to submit to NEST.

  2. Select Edit Pay Run.

  3. Select the employee you need to add the reference to and select Manage Enrolment then Opt Out / Leave (you may need to scroll down to see this option if you have a lot of payments and deductions for this employee).

  4. In the Did the employee opt-out using a NEST paper Form? option, Select Yes and fill in the opt out reference.

  5. Select Opt Out.

Resubmit the pension file by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

If you do not have the opt out reference, to use the steps below to manually submit this period to the NEST portal using a CSV file.

  1. In Sage Payroll select Pay Runs, then select the relevant pay run are trying to submit to NEST.

  2. Select Summary then View submission details.

  3. Select Manage Pension File, then select Regenerate CSV file.

    This will download the CSV File you need.

  4. To upload the file to NEST, select Manage Pension File and then open NEST portal.

You will need to speak to NEST for the steps needed to upload the file.

The Additional Data Group Name is missing

This error means employees have been assigned to a pension scheme during the pay run and there is information missing from the pension scheme.

To add the missing details:

  1. Select Pay Runs and choose the relevant pay run, then select Edit Pay Run.

  2. For each employee that is assigned to the pension, select Manage Enrolment and in the drop-down menu select Change Pension Scheme.

  3. Change the Pension Scheme, Pension Plan and Payment source from Default to the correct Pension Scheme, Plan and Payment source that the employee is assigned to, then select Save.

  4. Once that is done for all employees on the pension scheme select Next and then View Summary.

  5. Resubmit the pension details to NEST by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

This member doesn’t belong on this schedule. Please check that they’ve been enrolled and are still an active member. Also check if they’re in a different group or payment source to the workers on this schedule

This error means an employee is assigned to a specific group in Sage Payroll, but on NEST they are assigned to a different group.

The employee has to be assigned to the correct group on both systems.

If you need to change the details on the NEST Portal, speak to NEST to move the employee from one group to another.

Once the employee has been moved to the correct group, you can resubmit the pension contribution data from Sage Payroll.

If you need to change the details in Sage Payroll:

  1. Select Pay Runs then select the relevant pay run you are trying to submit to NEST.

  2. Select Edit Pay run.

  3. Select the employee, and then Manage Enrolment.

  4. Choose Change Pension Scheme.

  5. Check the Pension Scheme, Pension Plan and Payment source are correct. If required, change them to match the details held on the NEST portal, then select Save.

An error occurred while generating the pension submission. The names of the pension groups attached to your employees do not match the groups set up with NEST. Please ensure that the group details are recorded correctly and are attached to the employees in this pay run before attempting to resubmit

This means the pension groups for your employee in Sage Payroll don't match the groups set up with NEST.

Use the steps below to check the group details on both systems are identical and are correctly attached to the employees in this pay run, then resubmit the data to NEST.

To check and amend the group names in Sage Payroll:

  1. Select Pensions then select Edit pension.

  2. To make a change select View / Edit.

To check this in NEST:

  1. Log into the NEST portal and select Manage Groups.

  2. Amend the groups if needed.

  3. Select Manage Payment Sources.

  4. For each employee that is assigned to the pension, select Manage Enrolment and then Change Pension Scheme.

  5. Check the Pension Scheme, Pension Plan and Payment source are correct.

  6. Select Save.

Once this is done for all employees who are part of this pension scheme and are being paid in this pay run, resubmit the pension contribution data to NEST. In Sage Payroll select Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

Internal Server Error

This error means we were unable to contact NEST.

Use the steps below to refresh and resubmit your data:

  1. Select Pay Runs and then select the pay run you are trying to submit.

  2. Select Edit Pay Run.

  3. For each employee that is assigned to the pension, select Manage Enrolment then Change Pension Scheme.

  4. Change the Pension Scheme, Pension Plan and Payment source from Default to the exact Pension Scheme, Plan and Payment source that the employee is assigned to.

  5. Select Save.

You can now resubmit the pension details to NEST by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

If you receive the same error message, contact our support team so we can update these details on our systems.

If you do not see the error you are experiencing visit the NEST website to view a further list of errors (opens in a new tab).

Smart submit pension contribution errors

You have attempted to submit a contribution for an employee who has not been enrolled

This means the employee has not been enrolled into the pension with SMART yet, or there is a mismatch in the employee NI numbers.

To fix this use the steps below to compare the details for your employees in Sage Payroll and SMART to make sure they are identical.

How to find these details in Saghe Payroll:

  1. Select Employees.

  2. Select the employee name to open their record and make a note of the NI Number (you will need to do this for each employee that is part of the pension scheme).

  3. Select the Workplace Pensions tab and make a note of the Pension provider ID.

Use the steps below to compare the employee NI numbers and Pension provider ID to the ones held on Smart.

  1. Access the Smart Pension dashboard (opens in a new tab).

  2. Select Menu.

  3. From the drop-down menu select Scheme Set up, then Employees.

  4. Compare the NI number and Pension provider ID to the External Payroll ID.

  5. If you need to change the details on Smart, select Update from the Actions column.

  6. Select Employee Settings.

  7. Edit the details that are incorrect, then select Update to save your changes.

Once the changes have been made, retry your submission by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

The Pay period start date must be one day after the end of the previous pay period

The submission is for a pay period that is not aligned with the HMRC tax week or month.

To check the pay period is aligned correctly log into your Smart dashboard (opens in a new tab).

Pay periods in Smart need to match the submission from Sage Payroll. The submissions must also be in sequence so you'll need to check the correct dates are included in your pay periods.

Contact Smart and ask them to help align your pay periods on their system to match those in Sage Payroll.
Once you have updated the Smart Pension retry your submission by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

Please set your company staging date. Without this you do not have the option to assess.

You have not set your company staging date. This is required so that you can assess your employees for Automatic Enrolment.

Check you've entered your staging dates in Sage Payroll and Smart using the steps below:

  1. Select Summary.

  2. In the Auto Enrolment / Pensions section, enter the staging date you’ve received from The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

  3. Select Set Staging Date.

  4. Log into your Smart dashboard (opens in a new tab).

  5. Select Menu then Scheme set up.

  6. Select Update scheme start date to change the date.

If you're unsure of what your staging date should be, please contact the Pension Regulator (opens in a new tab).

National Insurance number in use, please use a different one

This message means that a National Insurance number is already linked to an employee.

Check that your employee is not already opted in to another pension scheme and that you’ve not accidentally input the employees National Insurance number into a different employee's record.

To check this in Sage Payroll:

  1. Select Employees.

  2. Select the Employee name to open their record (you will need to do this for each Employee that is part of the pension scheme).

  3. Make a note of the National Insurance number.

To compare and amend these details access the Smart pensions manage your employees guide (opens in a new tab).

An error occurred while updating your pension provider account data. If the problem persists, please contact customer support so we update these details on our systems

This means we could not find any schemes from your pension provider when you tried to submit your data to them.

Check that the login details being used are correct. To do this you can access the Smart pension dashboard login page (opens in a new tab).

Check that you are logging in as either an individual or an agent (and the option selected is correct).

If you are still getting the same error message once you have checked the login details, check your Company ID is identical in both Sage Payroll and on the Smart pension dashboard.

To check your Company ID on the Smart pensions dashboard:

  1. Access the Smart pension dashboard login page (opens in a new tab) and select Account in the top right.

  2. Select Profile details.

  3. Select Profile settings.

  4. From the API details section, check your Company ID.

To check and amend your company ID in Sage payroll:

  1. Select Pensions.

  2. Select Edit pension.

  3. Overwrite the Company ID field if needed.

Once this has been changed, retry your submission by selecting Summary then View submission details then Submit Online.

If the error still appears, please contact us so we can update the details on our systems.

Submit pension contributions glossary

A list of common terms used by pension providers, with an explanation of what each term means.

 

Terminology

Explanation
Company IDThis is your unique reference for Smart. You can find your Company ID by logging into the Smart portal and accessing Scheme Details.
Contribution fileFiles that contain details of the pension contributions your employees’ make from their pay.
You need to upload these to your pension provider each pay period.
Contribution scheduleFiles are created for every combination of tax period, group and payment source. Contribution files include employees who opt out of a pension scheme.
ERN (Employer Reference Number)

Your ERN (Employer Reference Number, sometimes called an Employer Reference) is a unique set of numbers and letters used by HMRC to identify employers in the UK

When you register as an employer with HMRC, you receive the ERN in your welcome pack.

Enrolment status and Enrolment types

Each type of worker has their own enrolment type.

NEST use an enrolment code to identify the type of worker when you enrol them:

  • AE – eligible jobholders.

  • OPTIN – non-eligible jobholders.

  • WWQE – workers without qualifying earnings, also known as entitled workers.

  • VOLUNTARY – voluntary workers.

  • OTHERS – Other types of worker.

You need to tell NEST the enrolment type of each worker when you enrol them.

External payroll ID

Employees who are part of a Smart pension scheme have a unique ID, which Smart calls an External ID.

If you get an error that refers to a missing external ID or a duplicate NI Number, check the employee details on the Smart Pension portal. The external ID needs to be identical to pension provider ID in Sage Payroll.

Group

When you enrol your workers into a NEST pension scheme you’ll assign them to a group.

Groups are made up of workers who share:

  • A pay period, also known as an earnings period.

  • A contribution rate and earnings basis.

When setting up a group with NEST, how often you’ll pay contributions and the date you’ll pay them by.

Header or trailer record

The header and trailer are different sections of the contribution files you upload to your pension provider.

The header contains (amongst other things) details of the NEST Employer ID, the relevant pay period, the payment source and the pay frequency of the employees.

The trailer contains the group name for your pension scheme from Sage Payroll.

These fields have to match exactly with the details on the NEST portal.

Member enrolment file

Files containing any new employees enrolled for the relevant pay reference period, and personal information about the employees NEST need to enrol the onto the pension scheme.

These files are generated when you reach your staging date, or if you have new employees eligible to enrol in the pension scheme.

Enrolment files need to be uploaded before you upload a Contribution file.

NEST credentialsLogin details for the NEST website portal.
NEST employer ID

A unique reference number that’s associated with your organisation - for example EMP000123456.

This is case sensitive so make sure to use EMP and not emp when you enter this number anywhere in your account.

If you set up more than one scheme in NEST, for example one for each subsidiary organisation, then these will each have their own NEST employer IDs.

NEST delegate ID

An ID specific to the individual using the NEST account.

When you register for a NEST account and log in for the first time you’ll be given a NEST delegate ID.

Opt out reference numberThis reference is found on the notice to opt out of pension saving form, that the member submits to NEST.
PAPDISPAPDIS ( Payroll And Pension Data Interface Standard) is an open standard report, designed to help payroll systems transfer information to pension providers.
Pay reference period

Pay reference periods are aligned to HMRC tax periods.
Tax months run from the 6th of a month and ends on the 5th of the following month.
When you set up a pension scheme with your provider, advise them that your pay reference periods are aligned to tax periods.

Payment Schedule

Payment schedules show what you’ll pay your workers and by when.

You’ll see your payment schedule on the NEST portal, when you complete the setup.

NEST will send a message to your secure NEST mailbox confirming what you’ve agreed, with a copy of your payment schedule attached.

A payment schedule is a legally binding document that details the contributions you’ve agreed to pay to meet your legal duties.

You’ll receive a payment schedule to summarise the group settings for every group of workers in your NEST pension schemes.

Payment source

A payment source shows how you’re going to make contribution payments to NEST. You can choose to pay by Direct Debit or debit card.

The bank or building society details you use to pay contributions will be used by NEST to send any refunds to you.

Staging dateYour staging date is the latest date by which you have to have an auto-enrolment scheme in place for your employees.

Other Pension providers

If you don't use NEST or Smart, your pension provider may support the upload of a PAPDIS CSV file directly to their online portal.

You can download this file from Sage Payroll to send details of pension contributions to your pension provider.

Your pension provider can confirm if they support the upload of a PAPDIS file.

Alternatively, you can use the information from the pension report to help you manually complete your pension provider’s online template and upload the correct values.

If you experience any problems with the upload of a PAPDIS file, speak to your pension provider for assistance.

To help you manage your pension duties for other pension providers: