A healthcare company and its managing director have pleaded guilty to misleading The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about providing their staff with a workplace pension.
Birmingham-based Crest Healthcare and managing director Sheila Aluko admitted recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR. They also admitted wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties.
On 22 March 2016, Sheila Aluko submitted a declaration of compliance to TPR claiming that the employer had complied with its duties. She claimed staff had been written to about the pension scheme and said 25 staff had been enrolled into a workplace pension scheme.
In fact, the employer had not completed the setting up of a pension scheme, had not automatically enrolled any staff and had not written to its staff to tell them about automatic enrolment, as it was legally bound to do. No pension contributions had been paid.
Later the employer began deducting pension contributions from the wages of some workers but kept them in the company’s bank account and did not pay them into a pensionscheme for more than eight months.
It was only after a whistleblower raised the alarm – and TPR had executed a search warrant at Crest Healthcare’s offices and interviewed Sheila Aluko under caution – that the pension scheme was set up and the contributions were paid in.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment, said:
“Sheila Aluko tried to conceal her company’s non-compliance by hiding behind false information and misleading her staff that their pensions were up and running.
“It was only after we intervened that the employer finally complied with its duties and provided its staff with the workplace pensions they were entitled to.
“While the majority of employers are doing the right thing, this case sends a clear message that it is unacceptable to dodge your pension responsibilities - and that we will take action against those who try to.”
Crest Healthcare and Sheila Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR and two charges of wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties when they appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 7 March.
The case was adjourned for sentencing until 15 May.
- Knowingly or recklessly providing false information to TPR is an offence under section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004. Wilfully failing to comply with automatic enrolment duties is an offence under section 45 of the Pensions Act 2008.
- Both charges carry a maximum sentence in a magistrates’ court of an unlimited fine.
- 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 (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).