Regulator issues first wave of auto-enrolment fines

The Pensions Regulator has handed out fixed penalties of £400 to three employers for failing to meet their auto-enrolment duties, in the first wave of fines handed out to firms for non-compliance.

As well, TPR has issued 163 compliance notices giving employers a deadline within which to take certain actions, as it clamps down following months of warnings of the dangers awaiting unprepared companies.

The regulator’s research into employer awareness and calls to its contact centres have indicated that some small employers still do not realise the law applies to them, raising the prospect of a spate of further action in the future as smaller employers are ‘staged in’.

Charles Counsell, TPR’s executive director for automatic enrolment said: “As we deal with smaller employers, we will see more who, despite our message to prepare early, leave it too late or do not comply at all.

“This type of non-compliance is not acceptable. We expect to see the number of times we need to use our powers increase.”

The regulator has a range of powers to tackle non-compliance, including serving fixed penalty notices and escalating daily penalties notices.

Mr Counsell added that while auto-enrolment has been a success so far, the regulator is not complacent.

“More than 1.25m employers need to comply with their new workplace pensions over the next three years. For all these employers it is vital that they find out their staging date now, and plan early to ensure that they are ready in time.”

Glynn Jones, divisional director for group savings and investments at LEBC Group, said he was not surprised about these fines.

“Unfortunately, a number of employers are still not engaging with their professional advisers to tackle their obligations. The regulator has the powers to act and we have now seen it has imposed the first fines and more will follow if the warnings are ignored.”

Iain Chadwick, consultancy director at workplace pensions specialist Johnson Fleming, added that the regulator’s findings show not enough is being done to communicate the auto-enrolment message to employers.

“Every employer throughout Britain should see this as an urgent wake-up call, to ensure they are not left behind in an increasingly complex pensions market. Whether you’re an SME approaching your staging date, or a large corporation heading towards re-enrolment, our advice is to avoid complacency and act now.”