Regulators increasingly cracking down on auto-enrolment failings

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being warned to ensure that they are fully compliant with their auto-enrolment obligations, after it emerged that regulators are increasingly cracking down on businesses that fall foul of the rules.

Under existing rules, employers are required to ‘automatically enrol’ almost all of their staff into a workplace pension scheme.

Once staff have been enrolled into an appropriate scheme, businesses must then make minimum contributions into the scheme on their behalf. This applies to all employees, unless they have individually ‘opted out’ of the scheme.

As of 6 April 2018, employer auto-enrolment pension contributions have increased, meaning that businesses should now be contributing two per cent of pay into the pensions of any members of staff enrolled into the scheme. This is up from the previous contribution level of one per cent.

So far, the advent of auto-enrolment has proved to be hugely successful in terms of encouraging Britons to save money for retirement. In fact, figures suggest that 85 per cent of UK workers employed by SMEs have now chosen to stay within a workplace pension scheme.

However, in recent weeks, pensions watchdogs such as The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have warned that they will be cracking down on any businesses that are not fully compliant with their auto-enrolment obligations.

The news comes amid concerns that some employers are looking to ‘circumvent’ auto-enrolment by encouraging workers to ‘opt out’ of workplace pension schemes.

TPR’s latest figures suggest that as many as 5,862 enforcement notices against employers in breach of auto-enrolment rules have already been issued in the first quarter (Q1) of 2018.

This is up from a total of 28,446 enforcement notices issued during the final quarter (Q4) of the previous year – and reports suggest that regulators will continue to ‘ramp up’ enforcement activities over the coming months.

In light of the news, employers are being reminded that it is illegal to offer staff any encouragement or inducement to opt of workplace pension schemes – or to ‘pressure’ them in any way to do so.

Furthermore, SMEs are being reminded to make sure that they are on top of their payroll responsibilities and are making the correct level of contributions. This is hugely important, as failings in this area could result in penalties.

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Steve Horton

Steve Horton

Financial Services Partner
Steve Horton is a partner in the firm’s Taunton office. He is a general practice partner specialising in providing advice to owner managed businesses and high net worth clients. Steve is also a director of our financial services company which provides independent advice on pensions, investments and protection and Steve is chairman of the Shark and Coral Conservation Trust.