The Pensions Regulator has warned employers not to fall for a scam involving the sale of fake certificates that suggest they do not have workplace auto-enrolment duties.
The watchdog is investigating at least one company offering what it describes as 'Certificates of Auto Enrolment Exemption' to employers.
A number of employers have been persuaded to pay for the documents, with the scammers claiming the paperwork means the holders do not have any workplace pension duties.
While employers have been charged £58 for the certificates, the documents are worthless – no such documents are produced or accepted by TPR as evidence of automatic enrolment exemption.
Every individual or organisation in the UK that employs at least one person has auto-enrolment duties. For some this will involve simply informing TPR that they do not have any staff that qualify for automatic enrolment. In other cases, employers will have to enrol some or all of their staff in a workplace pension and make regular contributions.
There is no evidence that employers are buying the fake documents with the intention of committing any offences. However, employers who have failed to comply with their duties because they believe the documents give them an exemption leave themselves open to being fined, and may be committing an offence.
Anyone who is offered the chance to buy a certificate of exemption or any similar sounding document is being urged to decline and contact TPR immediately.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s director of automatic enrolment, said: "Most independent advisers offer legitimate services that assist employers with their workplace pension duties. Nevertheless, employers need to take care when they are seeking help or advice about what they need to do about automatic enrolment.
"We will work to root out the small number of organisations that are looking to prey on hard-working employers, abusing their trust and tricking them out of their money."
He adds: "The vast majority of employers who have reached their deadline for compliance have met the requirements. Over the next six months up to a further 500,000 small and micro employers will have to become compliant before their deadlines arrive."
Patrick Connolly, communications manager at Chase de Vere, warns: "Financial scams can affect individuals and companies and so everybody needs to be vigilant. It isn't surprising that some companies are falling for this as many won't be certain of the auto enrolment rules. It is another example of where, by using the services of an independent financial or corporate adviser, firms can ensure they are on the right track and meet their requirements."