This month's automatic enrolment messages (which are very similar to last month's) concentrate on five key themes that TPR would like us to flag with our members - new employer duties, late in complying, ongoing contributions, increases in contributions and seasonal workers.
- Are your clients new employers? Don't let them ignore the workplace pension.
- Are your clients late in complying? Don't let them risk a fine.
- Make sure your clients are contributing to their staff's pension every month.
- What can your clients do to plan for the increases in contributions in April 2018?
- Are you clients thinking of employing seasonal staff for the Christmas period?
There is also a message from Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment to remind everyone of the current requirements for Auto enrolment as a very busy time approaches rapidly.
"We’ve all got our minds on other things at this time of year, especially with the extra pressures they bring. Making sure deliveries go out on time to meet customers’ deadlines. Juggling shift patterns to allow as many staff to have the time off they want, while still keeping the business running. It’s stressful. We understand that.
But it’s important that employers don’t take their other eye off the ball when it comes to their employees’ pensions.
In the run up to Christmas, TPR are visiting scores of employers across Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Kent to make sure pension duties are being complied with. We’ve already done similar checks on employers in a number of cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow and we’ll be doing many more throughout 2018.
The checks will help us understand whether employers are facing any unnecessary challenges that we can help them with, such as assisting them to improve their systems. But they will also highlight employers that have not taken the required steps to become compliant – and those who may have become compliant but then failed to keep doing what they should. That last point is particularly important as more and more employers go through automatic enrolment. The duties they have are ongoing, not just a one-off.
Not just a tick in the box
Some employers might think that just ticking the box on their Declaration of Compliance to say they have done everything that they should (even when they haven’t) will let them slip under our radar. However, being dishonest on the declaration is a criminal offence and one which we will consider prosecuting employers for.
We understand that over the next few weeks in particular, time is limited and money can be tight. But denying staff workplace pensions they are entitled to is wrong – at any time of the year.
To date, we have had to take action against very few employers because they have failed to maintain pension contributions for their staff – fewer than one in every 1,000 who have gone through automatic enrolment.
However, if employers fail to comply with their duties, we may issue a £400 fine. That’s an unnecessary expense for any employer. We may then take further action by following up with an escalating fine that increases by at least £50 a day for even the tiniest of micro-employers. If this fine is left unpaid, we may then take employers to court to get a CCJ for their business. And in the most serious cases we could even prosecute for failing to comply with the law. And after all the fines, the stress and the legal bills, employers will still have to become compliant and pay back the contributions that should have been paid originally. It’s just not worth the risk.
Employers, don’t put your head in the sand
It’s vital that employers check that they have done – and are continuing to do – everything they should to comply with their legal requirements. This is another point I would emphasise – automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law. The very worst thing employers can do is to stick their heads in the sand and hope it will all be ok. It won’t. Ignoring automatic enrolment duties won’t make them go away – it simply gives us, and possibly the courts, the impression that employers have no intention of doing what they should.
Recently we had to prosecute Greater Manchester bus firm Stotts Tours (Oldham) for wilfully failing to comply with the law. Not only will an employer have to make up the pension contributions that it should have paid for its staff over more than a year, it will also have penalty notices to pay for non-compliance and will also face the court giving it an extra fine and legal costs on sentencing. It’s an avoidable bill that no employer needs – and exactly the kind of present we want to avoid having to give out.
What to do if time’s running out?
If you’re running out of time until your compliance deadline, or if you run into problems afterwards, don’t ignore your duties – they won’t go away. You need to take action – it’s the law. There’s a huge amount of information and guidance available on our website www.tpr.gov.uk. Or contact us. We’re here to help."
Employers and automatic enrolment – what to do and by when : www.tpr.gov.uk/employers
What to do if you’re late complying: www.tpr.gov.uk/compliance
Your ongoing duties: www.tpr.gov.uk/ongoing
Declare your compliance: www.tpr.gov.uk/declaration