First company in breach of auto-enrolment rules

A four-page report by TPR found that the firm, known for its Dunhelm Mill stores, failed to auto-enrol staff on time for its staging date of 1 April 2013, and consequently failed to pay £143,000 in contributions to the pensions of its employees.

The report revealed that Dunhelm did not complete auto-enrolment registration by its 31 July, 2013 deadline, and was subsequently contacted by TPR, who issued a compliance notice under section 35 of the Pensions Act 2008, directing it to complete registration.

A statutory inspection by TPR highlighted several breaches in auto-enrolment regulation, including enroling weekly payroll members a month late, enrolling some monthly payroll members three months late, and failing to pay enough contributions as a result of the failures.

The regulator also claimed that Dunhelm, in submitting data on its registration portal that indicated compliance with auto-enrolment rules had been inaccurate, and cited internal governance issues at the firm, with key executives unaware of problems with the process.

According to TPR’s report, Dunhelm cited difficulties in its bespoke payroll system, data quality issues and key staff departures as the reason for its failure to comply, was instructed to pay the £143,000 in outstanding contributions, and is now fully compliant with its auto-enrolment obligations.

Adviser View

Laith Khalaf, head of corporate research at Bristol-based Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It is encouraging to see the Pensions Regulator taking a co-operative approach to compliance, although it remains to be seen how long this softly softly approach will last.”