Employers that refuse to pay workplace pension fines could have their assets seized to pay their debts.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) issues fines to employers that fail to meet their automatic enrolment duties and can secure court orders if the debts are not paid.
TPR is to now appoint High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) to enforce court orders in England and Wales and the equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland on those employers that have refused or failed to comply.
If an employer does not pay its debt, HCEOs could visit the business premises to remove items to sell, to the value of the amount owed. This could include the employer’s vehicles.
Unlike bailiffs, HCEOs have the power to force entry to locked commercial premises to seize assets.
Separately, TPR will consider whether it should prosecute employers that remain non-compliant with their automatic enrolment duties despite being given a court order demanding they pay the fines they have incurred.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment (AE), said:
“Automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law. Those who break the law by denying their staff the pensions they are entitled to should expect to be punished – and must pay any fines they are given.
“AE has been a huge success thanks to the vast majority of employers who do exactly what they should, but a tiny minority not only ignore their automatic enrolment duties but fail to pay their fines, even after the courts have ordered them to.
“The use of HCEOs is a last resort for us. Unfortunately the behaviour of a tiny minority means it may be necessary.”
HCEOs will also be used to collect payment for other fines or levies issued by TPR that trustees or trust managers fail to pay, such as for chair statement and scheme return offences.
- Every three months, TPR publishes the names of employers that it has had to take to court for the non-payment of escalating penalty notices issued for automatic enrolment breaches. The latest bulletin, for the three months to the end of December 2017, brought the total number of employers taken to court by TPR for failure to pay these escalating fines to 262.
- By way of comparison, at the end of the same period a total of 32,211 employers had been issued with fixed penalty notices for non-compliance and 6,770 had additionally been issued with escalating penalty notices. More than 1.1 million employers have completed their declaration of compliance to confirm that they have met all of their automatic enrolment duties – leading to more than 9.4 million employees being automatically enrolled into workplace pensions.
- TPR has never needed to use HCEOs before. The intention is to only use them on those rare occasions when, without good excuse, a debtor has failed or refused to pay a fine or levy imposed by TPR and after which TPR has subsequently obtained a court order for the amount owed.
- HCEOs enforcing County Court Judgments have clear rules on what they can seize and how they must act.
- TPR 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); 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 TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).