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Employers reminded of AE duties as penalties rise

Ref: PN20-32

Issued: Thursday 19 November 2020

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) quarterly compliance and enforcement bulletin highlights:

  • an increase in unpaid contribution and compliance notices compared with last quarter
  • TPR’s first ever Proceeds of Crime confiscation order

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is reminding all employers of their automatic enrolment (AE) responsibilities as new figures show an increase in penalties issued.

TPR’s quarterly compliance and enforcement bulletin shows a 191.4% increase in unpaid contribution notices (UCN) – from 352 to 1,026 – and a 17% increase in compliance notices (CN) – from 13,185 to 15,420 – compared with the previous quarter. 

The figures show how the regulator is continuing to be tough with employers who don’t comply with their AE duties.

Mel Charles, Director of AE at TPR, said: “Employers may have seen their business change because of COVID-19, but their pension duties have not.

“While we issued easements at the start of the pandemic, we closely monitored compliance and took action where necessary. We continued to target employers who committed serious breaches and where staff contributions were at immediate risk.

“As predicted, we are seeing a return to normal levels of enforcement activity in line with our expectations, but we will monitor this closely.

“Indications are that the majority of employers are paying their contributions in full and on time and we have not seen any unusual increase in reports of late payments by pension schemes.

“However, employers must remember their pension duties continue and failure to fulfil them may lead to legal action.”

The bulletin also shows how TPR secured its first confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 in September when a fraudster who swindled a charity’s pension scheme out of more than £250,000 was told he must pay back the money he stole or face further jail time.

In a separate hearing in October, which will be reflected in next quarter’s bulletin, TPR secured a second confiscation order under POCA for a fraudster who defrauded a scheme of £292,000.

Nicola Parish, Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said: “Our two recent court successes show that we’ll use every weapon at our disposal to ensure pension criminals do not benefit from their crimes at the expense of hardworking savers.

"Our enforcement work will continue to see criminals punished, but we also expect industry to help ensure savers’ money isn’t stolen in the first place. All providers, trustees and administrators should commit to safeguarding savers by joining our campaign and pledging to combat pensions scams.” 

Notes for editors

  1. TPR saw a 6% increase in the overall use of its AE powers, which include CN, UCN, fixed and escalating penalty notices, between July and September compared with the previous quarter.
  2. The 16.9% increase in CNs was partly the result of a 14% increase in employers who reached their declaration, re-declaration or second re-declaration deadline between June and August compared with those who reached their deadline between March and May 2020.
  3. The Pensions Regulator is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).

Press contacts

Dan Menhinnitt

Media Officer
01273 349511

Matt Adams

Senior Media and Parliamentary Manager
01273 662086

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