The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has begun carrying out spot checks across Northern Ireland to ensure employers are complying with their pension duties.
Inspection teams visited dozens of businesses dotted across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Antrim, Down and Armagh this month to check that qualifying staff are being given the workplace pensions they are entitled to.
The move was part of a nationwide enforcement campaign which began in London last spring to ensure employers are meeting their automatic enrolment duties correctly.
This was the first time these checks have been done in Northern Ireland. Short-notice inspections have also been carried out in South Wales, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham.
The checks help TPR understand whether employers are facing any unnecessary challenges that we can help them with, such as helping them improve their systems.
But they also highlight employers who have not taken the required steps to become or remain compliant, paving the way for enforcement action.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment, said: "The vast majority of employers are compliant with the law, but these visits help us identify why some may be struggling so we can take action where we need to.
"Automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law. Where we find employers are not complying, we will use our powers to ensure they comply so that staff receive the pensions they are entitled to."
More than one million employers across the UK have met their automatic enrolment duties, with more than nine million workers given workplace pensions as a result.
Data to the end of January 2018 reveals around 4,960 employers in Belfast, 740 employers in Antrim, 1,100 in Down and 1,090 in Armagh have met their automatic enrolment duties. As a result nearly 23,000 staff in those areas have been put into a workplace pension. Across Northern Ireland nearly 200,000 staff are now saving into a pension thanks to automatic enrolment.
- Our most recent quarterly automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement bulletin (PDF, 67kb, 14 pages) showed that between July and September 2017, TPR issued a total of 5,479 fixed penalty notices and 1,433 escalating penalty notices.
- Inspections are carried out under section 74 of the Pensions Act 2004. More information on our powers is set out in our automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement strategy (PDF, 152kb, 27 pages).
- Employers are notified about an inspection a matter of days in advance of our visit. Those being visited include organisations that we suspect may not be compliant or who we believe are at risk of becoming non-compliant in the future.
- 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 TPR’ s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).
Ciara Bridge-ButlerMedia Officer (AE)