TPR launches its first prosecution for failure to auto-enrol staff
29 / 09 / 2017
Automatic enrolment (“auto-enrolment”) – a familiar phrase
Every employer should now be familiar with these words. Auto-enrolment. Auto-enrolment was introduced five years ago, in October 2012, and was talked about for months prior to this date. Employers were given a great deal of notice and awareness about auto-enrolment – the government regularly placed information on their gov.uk website, posters went up on bus stops and adverts appeared on television screens across the country. Each directed employers to free and useful information via Pension Wise. The Department for Work and Pensions budgeted over £8 million for their wide-reaching advertising campaign!
Purpose of auto-enrolment
The purpose of auto-enrolment was to oblige UK employers to put in place a qualifying workplace pension scheme into which they would auto-enrol their qualifying workers (known as “Eligible Jobholders”). The legislation requires employers and certain employees to make contributions towards the pension pots of these employees (should the employees not opt out of auto-enrolment). This was an effort by the government to ensure that people in the UK would all work towards saving for their retirement. The government expected 10 million people to save for the first time or save more, towards their retirement, by 2018.
Five years on from the introduction of auto-enrolment
Fast forward five years and many (smaller) employers are still seeking legal advice relating to putting their employees into a qualifying workplace pension scheme. More importantly, five years later and TPR has launched its first prosecution of an employer for a failure to comply with its auto-enrolment obligations.
Stotts Tours (Oldham) Limited (“Stotts Tours“), a bus company based in Manchester, was accused of failing to comply with auto-enrolment obligations relating to 36 members of its staff. Alan Stott, managing director of the company, was accused of consenting or conniving in the offence, or allowing the offence to be committed by neglect. Stotts Tours and Mr Stott appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 4 October 2017 and faced eight charges of wilfully failing to comply with the company’s duties under auto-enrolment legislation.
Wedlake Bell comment
Echoing the tone of one of our articles published on 27 April 2017, “The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has secured its first and second criminal convictions for a refusal to provide information” (click here to read article), there seems to be quite a shift from TPR not handing out heavy punishments for those failing to perform certain obligations, to taking a far tougher approach. Many smaller employers, who may not have given much thought to auto-enrolment, may now be working quickly to ensure that they are fully compliant with their auto-enrolment obligations, and expect a penalty for current breaches. In May of this year, TPR published a list of employers which had failed to meet their automatic enrolment obligations. This list included employers which failed to meet their auto-enrolment obligations and subsequently failed to pay a fine issued to them, as well as those which have paid a penalty but remain non-compliant. TPR commented at that time that it would raise prosecutions “in appropriate cases”. TPR have now taken steps to carry out this statement.
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