Lost in the post: Employers challenge regulator over auto-enrol enforcement

Charles Counsell 700 x 450

Employers have questioned The Pensions Regulator’s enforcement action over auto-enrolment in 379 cases, new figures show.

In one example provided by TPR, an employer challenged a £400 fixed penalty because they said they had not received the notice as their post “was frequently delivered to the wrong address”.

However, the regulator rejected the appeal as it had a telephone recording where the employer confirmed it had received the notice.

The case was one of 379 reviews of statutory notices handed out by the regulator for breaches of auto-enrolment duties up to September 2015.

This is the first time details of the reviews has been made public.

Of these, 279 resulted in the notice being “revoked, substituted or varied”. This includes cases where a different breach has been uncovered and the regulator has decided to use a different power instead. TPR would not say how many reviews resulted in it dropping statutory notices entirely.

However, the regulator says: “Many of these appeals related to people who – due to a change in circumstance or because they were single person directors – did not employ anyone on their staging date. In these cases the statutory notice is usually revoked.”

In addition, six reviews were requested to be taken to tribunal. Of these two were resolved after notices were revoked, the tribunal sided with the regulator on two occasions, and two cases are ongoing.

The regulator’s latest quarterly compliance bulletin also shows it has now used its powers in 3,044 cases. This includes 582 £400 penalty notices and seven escalating fines, which range between £50 and £10,000 a day depending on the size of the employer.

TPR executive director of automatic enrolment Charles Counsell says: “Employers can avoid triggering a compliance notice by following the clear step-by-step information we provide on our website. This includes completing a declaration of compliance within five months of the date their duties went live.

“My message to employers is get your plans in place early, meet the deadline to complete a declaration to let us know how you have met your duties. Don’t ignore workplace pensions and risk a fine.”