Names and Shames: The Pensions Regulator is not afraid to take action against organisations that flout duties

Out-law.com have recently reported that ‘the regulator has secured a court order against a number of businesses, for failing to meet their auto enrolment duties’ and who ‘have subsequently failed to pay a fine issued in respect of their non-compliance. Other employers listed include those that have paid their ‘escalating penalty notice’ (EPN) but that remain non-compliant’.

The Pensions Regulator stated that it may take “additional enforcement action” against employers that continue to ignore the rules, and even raise prosecutions “in appropriate cases”.

The publication of the named and shamed businesses is intended to “highlight the importance of employers meeting their automatic enrolment requirements”, highlighting the “large fines” employers face if they do not comply, the regulator indicated. The regulator also suggested that it intends to update the lists every quarter.

Charles Counsell, Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment at the Pensions Regulator, commented: “Employers who wilfully refuse to become compliant should be in no doubt that we will take enforcement action against them, as these lists show. Automatic enrolment is not an option, it is the law. Allowing some employers to get away with non-compliance is not fair on the employees who are denied the workplace pensions they are entitled to and is not fair on the vast majority of businesses who have taken the time to meet their responsibilities.”

“To date we have only had to bring court proceedings against a tiny proportion of employers, but every court case is one too many – and one that employers can easily avoid by becoming compliant,” said Counsell.

Whilst it may seem common sense that employers should face penalties for flouting the duties, my concern here is about general public awareness and understanding of auto-enrolment and The Pensions Regulator.

When conducting some recent research, I was concerned to find that there is still very little knowledge surrounding the role, and even existence of, The Pensions Regulator. Many employees are unaware of the changes to the state pension, only 40% of employers know their correct staging date, a third of micro businesses feel completely unprepared and three quarters of employers had no idea about re-enrolment.

What is interesting is that these results persist despite efforts from the regulator to share information via television adverts. Only 23% of Micro employers alone strongly agree that they know where to go to find out more information on workplace pensions, and over 50% thought the adverts were from the government!

So is this flouting of the rules solely due to employers neglecting their auto-enrolment duties, or does this naming and shaming in fact highlight additional concerns around awareness and campaign efficacy?

 

Sources

http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/docs/employer-automatic-enrolment-research-technical-autumn-2016.pdf

https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2017/may/pensions-regulator-names-and-shames-businesses-in-breach-of-auto-enrolment-duties/