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An education for employers

The Pensions Regulator will share data with Government departments including HM Revenue & Customs in a bid to identify employers that are likely to fail to comply with the new pension regulations coming into force in 2012.

Executive director Graham Brammer says: “We will work with other departments to identify trends in terms of compliance and highlight employers that might need a slightly different message. It is relatively simple to compare data sets.”

TPR’s research shows around 25 per cent of employers are likely to comply with the new rules from the start while a quarter are likely to dodge their duties. The other half are expected to toe the line but need to fully understand what is required first.

The regulator expects it will need around 500 staff to fulfil its task, with 150 in the con- tact centre, 100 in field enforcement and the balance working on exceptional processing, particularly registering problems. Staff will be paid from grant- in-aid funds, not from levies.

Brammer says it is critical that TPR’s field enforcers portray the correct message. He says: “How the field enforcers beh- ave will be very important. We want to help people to comply, not beat them around the head. It needs to be profess- ional and proportionate.”

The regulator is set to trial the rules on a group of up to 5,000 small and micro employers, starting from July 2012.

Brammer says: “We are anxious to learn from their behaviour and get an idea of the levels of non-compliance we can expect. We need a high degree of confidence in what we are doing before we start up with the large companies.”

If the practice run proves the staff numbers are too lean, TPR will recruit more.

The IT systems required will be fairly simple despite the volume of cases that need handling, according to Brammer who says the highly automated processes will look and feel similar to that of HM Revenue & Customs.

TPR will start talking advisers through the pension reforms towards the end of the year. This is part of a three-pronged approach to ensure that employers and employees are in the loop about the changes.

The regulator is in charge of educating employers and has a £20m grant dedicated to this over three years while the Department for Work and Pensions has the task of ensuring that employees understand what is going on.

Brammer says: “We are undergoing a big piece of work on how we position TPR to ensure employers open the letter from us and deal with it sensibly. TPR is in charge of educating employers so they understand their duties thoroughly.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for them to comply. If employers fail to promote the scheme and make the necessary contributions, that would be a bad outcome. Our purpose is to help seven million people achieve dignity in retirement.”

The Pensions Regulator can impose fines of up to £50,000 per day on employers which fail to comply with the new regulations as well as taking criminal action.

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