Auto-enrolment duties: Naughty nursery and its main director both face unlimited fines

11 / 12 / 2019

Auto-enrolment may have been introduced over 7 years ago, but as auto-enrolment specialists we are still dealing with auto-enrolment issues on a daily basis in our team. Our experience includes advising:

• an overseas business looking to establish a place of business in the UK;
• overseas companies seeking to second staff to the UK;
• a company wishing to employ an executive who wants a pension contribution to be paid to his own personal pension scheme rather than the employer’s usual qualifying pension scheme;
• clients from our private client team who are employing their first nanny or gardener;
• established UK businesses who want a review of their pension provision; or
• buyers of another UK business who want to ensure the business they are buying is compliant with the law and there are no hidden liabilities.

It is therefore particularly frustrating when we hear of cases where there has been a flagrant disregard of the law. This is one such case. However, it is heartening to see that the Pensions Regulator is clamping down in such cases.

Last month the Pensions Regulator published an update, seeking to make an example of a pre-school nursery and its main director.

Christine Moore, the main director of Sulouste Ltd, which trades as Tiny Hearts Day Nursery, appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 13 November 2019. It transpires that Ms Moore had falsely claimed, via a false declaration of compliance, that 13 members of staff had been auto-enrolled into a qualifying pension arrangement. However, after an alert from a whistleblower and a resulting investigation by the Pensions Regulator, it emerged that while a pension scheme had been set up, no staff had been automatically enrolled.

The company further admitted to wilfully failing to comply with its automatic enrolment responsibilities and Christine Moore admitted to providing TPR with false and misleading information.

Darren Ryder, Director of Automatic Enrolment at TPR, said:

“Any employee who is eligible for automatic enrolment must be put into a pension and contributions must be paid in on their behalf. TPR will not stand by if an employer does not meet their responsibilities and we will take action to make sure staff get the pensions they are entitled to.

“While the majority of employers do the right thing, Mrs Moore misled TPR to cover up that she was deliberately denying her staff the pensions they are due. This is a serious offence which we will not tolerate.”

Sulouste, which is based in Waterloo, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties under section 45 of the Pensions Act 2008. Mrs Moore, 60, of Merseyside, who is the main director of Sulouste, pleaded guilty to recklessly providing TPR with false and misleading information.

Both will be sentenced on 20 November at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, where they each face unlimited fines.

Auto-enrolment is one of those balls of wool which look fairly simple from the outside but often get rather tangled as you start to unravel it. We are very used to assisting both UK and overseas employers get to grips with their auto-enrolment duties, with a view to helping them ensure they don’t fall foul of the law. If you need assistance with any auto-enrolment queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch.