Birmingham, England-based healthcare company Crest Healthcare and its managing director have pleaded guilty to misleading UK watchdog The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about providing employees with a workplace pension.
Appearing before Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Crest Healthcare and Managing Director Sheila Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR, and two charges of willfully failing to comply with their automatic enrollment duties. Both charges carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine, and sentencing will take place on May 15.
“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,” said Darren Ryder, TPR’s director of automatic enrollment, in a release. “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.”
According to TPR, in March of 2016, Aluko submitted a declaration of compliance to TPR claiming that Crest Healthcare had complied with its duties. She claimed staff had been written to about the pension plan, and said 25 employees had been enrolled into a workplace pension.
However, TPR says Crest had not completed setting up a workplace pension, had not automatically enrolled any staff, and had also not written to its staff to tell them about automatic enrollment, as it was legally required to do. Additionally TPR says no pension contributions had been paid. Despite this, the company still deducted pension contributions from its workers’ wages, but kept them in the company’s bank account and did not pay them into a pension for more than eight months, said TPR.
The regulator said it was only made aware of the negligence “after a whistleblower raised the alarm,” and TPR executed a search warrant at Crest Healthcare’s offices and interviewed Aluko.
“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,” said Ryder, “and that we will take action against those who try to.”