Tuesday, 14 November 2017 08:59

Pensions Regulator warns of tougher stance after prosecution

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The Pensions Regulator has warned that it will take firm action, including prosecution, against employers who fail to pay into pensions after its first successful court case against an employer for failing to contribute to an auto-enrolment scheme.

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) added that more employers have been ordered to pay missing pension contributions, according to new data it released this week, and the regulator has issued at least £1.25m in fines to pension schemes this year.

Bus company Stotts Tours (Oldham) and its managing director Alan Stott pleaded guilty last week to deliberately avoiding giving their staff workplace pensions. They pleaded guilty to a total of 16 offences of wilfully failing to comply with the law on workplace pensions – the first such prosecution by The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

Stotts Tours (Oldham) should have put its 36 staff into a workplace pension and begun paying pension contributions from June 2015.

TPR decided that the company’s failure to comply with the law was deliberate and merited the criminal prosecution of both Stotts Tours (Oldham) and Alan Stott. The case was adjourned for sentencing on 14 December and TPR is separately pursuing Stotts Tours (Oldham) for £14,400 in civil fines imposed for non-compliance.

TPR says that the prosecution is an indication that it will not tolerate pensions failures by employers.

TPR’s latest compliance and enforcement quarterly bulletin highlights that TPR used its powers to issue Unpaid Contributions Notices to 753 employers between July and September this year, an increase from 653 in the previous quarter. These notices require an employer to ensure all backdated contributions are paid within 28 days.

Darren Ryder, director of Automatic Enrolment at TPR, said: “It is not enough to just comply with automatic enrolment laws by signing staff up to a scheme. Employers must also meet their duties to contribute into their employees’ pensions every month.

“Automatic enrolment has been hugely successful. There are now more than 800,000 compliant employers with more than 8.7million workers in workplace pension schemes. The vast majority of employers are doing the right thing for their staff and are meeting their pension duties.

“Clearly 753 employers not paying contributions is a very small proportion of those that are compliant – less than 0.1%. But every employer which is failing to make payments into their staff’s pension pot is one too many. We will not let employers get away with failing to meet their duties and we will take action.”

On auto-enrolment, TPR revealed a near 50% increase in the number of compliance notices issued to employers compared to the last quarter for failing to meet automatic enrolment duties. There were 5,479 more fixed penalty notices issued in the last three months to employers for failing to comply with a statutory notice or a specific duty and a total of 21,753 cases of powers being used in automatic enrolment between July and September 2017.

On pension schemes there were 327 occasions where powers have been used, including making 209 trustee appointments and issuing 37 fines to trustees for failing to complete a scheme return and 18 for failing to submit a chair’s statement.

Some 169 employers were taken to court for failing to pay an escalating penalty notice and for not meeting their automatic enrolment duties. The fines totalled more than £1.25million.

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 November 2017 09:06
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