UK employers may want to think twice before stiffing The Pension Regulator (TPR) of any workplace pension fines they receive.
TPR said it will send High Court enforcement officers (HCEOs) to enforce court orders, and seize assets owned by employers who refuse to pay workplace pension fines. If an employer does not pay its debt, HCEOs, who have the authority to force entry to locked commercial premises, could visit an offending business and remove items to sell to cover the amount owed—including the employer’s vehicles.
“Those who break the law by denying their staff the pensions they are entitled to should expect to be punished—and must pay any fines they are given,” Darren Ryder, TPR’s director of automatic enrollment, said in a release. “The use of HCEOs is a last resort for us. Unfortunately the behavior of a tiny minority means it may be necessary.”
TPR has never used HCEOs before, and said it will only use them in rare occasions when a debtor has failed or refused to pay a fine or levy imposed by TPR without a good excuse, and after which TPR has subsequently obtained a court order for the amount owed.
The regulator said it will also use HCEOs to collect payment for other fines or levies issued by TPR that trustees or trust managers fail to pay, such as for chair statement and pension plan return offenses.
According to TPR, 32,211 employers were issued with fixed penalty notices for non-compliance in the fourth quarter of 2017, and 6,770 were issued with escalating penalty notices. This is among more than 1.1 million employers that have completed their declaration of compliance to confirm that they have met all of their automatic enrollment requirements.
“AE has been a huge success thanks to the vast majority of employers who do exactly what they should,” said Ryder, “but a tiny minority not only ignore their automatic enrolment duties but fail to pay their fines, even after the courts have ordered them to.”
TPR also said it will consider whether it should prosecute employers who remain non-compliant with their automatic enrollment duties despite being given a court order demanding they pay the fines they have incurred.