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No Excuse: Don't Ignore the Workplace Pension

Ref: PN16-49
Thursday 27 October 2016

Employers are being reminded that workplace pensions law applies to everyone with staff.

The warning follows the publication of the latest quarterly compliance and enforcement bulletin (PDF, 102kb, 10 pages) which shows that the expected rise continues in the number of penalties issued, including Escalating Penalty Notices (EPN).

The rise in penalties demonstrates that the small minority of employers who fail to heed warnings from The Pensions Regulator (TPR), are subject to penalties. It comes as there was a 50% increase in employers reaching their deadline to comply with automatic enrolment duties. 

Pensions Minister Richard Harrington said: "Automatic enrolment is a great success. So far, more than 250,000 employers are helping more than 6.7 million people save into a workplace pension. The duty is being extended to all UK employers and they must ensure they enrol their staff into a scheme by the deadline for their firm, it's the law."

Today’s  report also highlights that explanations given for non-compliance such as illness, being short-staffed, or confusion between employers and their advisers, are not a 'reasonable excuse'.

Charles Counsell, Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment at TPR said: "We recognise that employers have unique circumstances and challenges, but the law is still the law. Employers who are struggling should contact us, we are here to help - do not wait for a fine.

"The vast majority of employers are successfully meeting their automatic enrolment duties and are doing the right thing for their staff.  A small minority do leave plans too late but in most cases the nudge of a compliance notice is enough to get them back on track and avoid a fine."

While the number of Compliance Notices issued has risen to more than 26,000, fewer than 5% of these progressed to an escalating penalty.

The bulletin also details examples of employers who, after receiving a £400 Fixed Penalty Notice, claimed their non compliance was unintentional and that they had a 'reasonable excuse.' The employers requested a review of our decision and went on to contest their fines at a tribunal.

In each case, the judge ruled their reasons did not amount to a ‘reasonable excuse’, in the sense of something unexpected and outside the employer’s control that stops them meeting their statutory duties. It would have been possible for the employer to comply despite the problems that they faced, so ultimately the fault rested with them.

Other circumstances which do not amount to a reasonable excuse for failure to comply include:

  • you or a member of staff were ill
  • you relied on someone else and they let you down
  • you found the online system too difficult to use
  • you didn’t get a reminder
  • you made a mistake

Editor's notes

  1. Employers issued with a statutory notice will have a deadline to comply before further action is taken. More information on statutory notices including penalties can be found in our Compliance and Enforcement Strategy (PDF 126kb, 27 pages).
  2. By June 2016 – 171,128 employers had completed their duties since the start of automatic enrolment in 2012. This rose by 85,760 by the end of September to 256,888 – an increase of around 50%.

Press contacts

Ciara Bridge-Butler 01273 662018

Rebecca Sandles 01273 811870

Out of hours 01273 648496