The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has announced that officials will be continuing the body’s spot checks across the UK to ensure that employers are complying with the new rules on workplace pensions.
Business owners should prepare for the short-notice inspections, which will check whether they are automatically enrolling qualifying staff in a company pension scheme and contributing to their employees’ pension pots.
TPR is announcing a clampdown in the new towns and cities it will be visiting every month, with spot checks having already been carried out in London, the north-west Yorkshire, the Midlands and, most latterly, Glasgow.
The checks, which are carried out after just a few days’ notice, will also help TPR understand whether employers are facing any unnecessary challenges that they can help them with, such as by improving their guidance. However, they will also highlight employers who have not taken the required steps to become or remain compliant, paving the way for enforcement action.
As a spokesman for TPR pointed out, “the vast majority of employers become compliant ahead of their deadline” but the visits help the regulator to identify why some have not, so action can be taken where it is needed.
He added that auto-enrolment is not an option but a legal requirement. Therefore, where the regulator finds employers are not complying with the law, it will use its powers to make them comply.
In the case of many small firms, it is unlikely that lack of compliance will be wilful non-compliance but more that the business owners may not give auto-enrolment the priority it needs.
The regulator is proving that it is ready to act where it finds non-compliance, as in the first three months of this year, TPR issued a total of 4,673 fixed-penalty notices and 1,043 escalating penalty notices.