View more on these topics

Jamie Clark: Who’s afraid of The Pensions Regulator?

Employers living in denial about auto-enrolment are storing up trouble.

Cazenove European Income 200813

The Pensions Regulator recently announced that it had opened 89 cases of possible automatic enrolment non-compliance. What’s notable about this isn’t the number of cases that TPR is investigating; it is that they relate to employers who staged between July 2012 and March 2013.

In other words, these 89 cases involve the biggest employers in the country – companies which are likely to provide comprehensive benefits packages and to have large payroll and HR departments, with access to financial and legal advice.

If big employers can not get it right, what hope do smaller employers have?

What is unfortunate is that, in our experience, some smaller employers are not taking their automatic enrolment duties seriously. A frequent reason given for not preparing early is companies saying as their automatic enrolment staging date is not until after the next election and a new Government will ‘change the rules’ or will ‘exempt employers with less than five people’.

Even employers who realise that the founding principles of automatic enrolment have cross-party political support, and that they are highly unlikely to change, seem to think that they will never get caught. Some might be looking for ways to ‘get around’ their duties.

We have already heard strange stories, spoken in hushed tones, about using postponement and getting the workforce on two month rolling contracts; or making everyone self-employed. In the extreme, one employer initially insisted he did not believe in pensions; would wilfully fail to comply; and would rather go to jail than set up a pension scheme for his staff. However, after talking to his adviser, he did eventually resign himself to setting up a pension scheme!

The message needs to be loud and clear. There are political, social and economic imperatives that are driving automatic enrolment and any attempt to get around the rules will simply not be tolerated. The regulator and the DWP are likely to be quite busy over the next few years – helping employers comply; investigating possible breaches; closing loopholes; and making an example of employers who consistently fail to comply.

It is unfortunate that some employers might not take automatic enrolment seriously until they see a headline in the popular press that an employer has been fined or even jailed. The reality is that this will probably happen. And by then it may well be too late to get the help and support that they need.

If the 89 cases that the regulator has looked at tell us anything, it is that employers will need help to get ready as early as possible to make sure that they will be fully compliant for their new employer duties.

If employers still do not think it is going to happen, or think that there are ways to shirk their responsibilities, then pointing them towards the regulator’s report on Compliance and Enforcement policy might be a good place to start. They’re both available on the regulator’s website –

Jamie Clark is business development manager at Scottish Life


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Employer – “what would you fancy? Your job or your pension”

    Employee – “Job”

    Employer – “I’m not allowed to tell you how to opt out but I can tell I’m not allow to tell you how to do it. And I absolutely cannot show you the web address that I will leave on my desk that if you happened to read in my absence….”

    It’s got failure written all over it

  2. Australia has compulsory 9.25% employer contribution on pensions rising to 12% over next few years. We’re only 20 years behind them but we’ll get there eventually. Opt outs will be banned eventually for anyone not near LTA. Anyone that thinks they can duck this indefinitely has their head in the sand.

  3. I think the more frightening statistic is that only 83 of these companies have got as far as registering, and yet there are already 89 non-compliance notices. Doesn’t bode well for smaller companies does it?

Leave a comment


Why register with Money Marketing ?

Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

Money Marketing Events
Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

Research and insight
Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

Have your say
Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

Register now

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm