Latest automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement bulletin

15 August 2017

The compliance and enforcement quarterly bulletin is designed to help employers, their advisers, trustees and administrators understand the type of compliance and enforcement interventions The Pensions Regulator (TPR) undertake.

As well as including data on automatic enrolment compliance, for the first time the bulletin includes a link to the names of pension schemes whose trustees have been fined for failing to complete scheme returns or annual chair’s statements. The schemes of a number of high profile organisations are represented on the list, including national and multinational businesses.

The bulletin highlights that TPR continue to see high compliance levels with automatic enrolment duties and the number of fines as a proportion of declarations has remained steady when compared to the previous year.

Also featured is news that the majority of schemes complied with new legislation obliging them to prepare an annual governance statement, signed by the chair of trustees.

However between April and June this year, the trustees of 20 schemes received a mandatory fine for not preparing a chair’s statement. A large proportion of those failing to produce a statement involved schemes with fewer than 100 members but some were large employers. In the same period the trustees of a number of schemes failed to submit scheme returns even after receiving a warning from TPR, leading to the issuing of fines to 45 trustees.

TPR has also published an updated quarterly list of employers taken to court for failing to pay fines for automatic enrolment non-compliance. The employers had each been issued with an escalating penalty notice (EPN) by TPR but had failed to pay it.  The list features both small and multinational companies, with county court judgments secured by TPR for up to £52,500.

A case study from TPR provides an example of the outcome of refusing to provide documents as part of an investigation:

A London-based solicitors firm and their senior partner were ordered to pay more than £16,000 in fines and costs for refusing to give TPR documents they needed as part of an investigation. TPR issued a s72 notice to the firm, who claimed that it was having trouble obtaining the documents as they were stored at a separate site. Shortly afterwards, the managing partner confirmed that he had found the documents, and would send them to TPR, but failed to do so.

Despite TPR staff making numerous requests for the information, it was only when they entered the offices with a search warrant that the documents were secured. TPR decided that the failure to hand over the documents was so serious that it merited the criminal prosecution of both the partner and his firm – the first time TPR has taken such action.

TPR’s message to the regulated community:

“We will not hesitate to prosecute people who prevent us gathering the data we need for our investigations. Information notices are a key enforcement tool to help us tackle those abusing the system, and we will not tolerate refusal to comply with one of our legal requests.”