Do you remember those public information ads a few years ago where people ignored a big, hairy monster? They were supposed to remind business owners that workplace pensions were on the way!
More than 1 million businesses have ensured they meet the Pension Regulator’s deadlines for enrolling eligible staff and setting up a workplace pension scheme, but that’s not the end of it, as some recent high-profile cases have shown.
With fines ranging from a £400 fixed penalty to daily fines escalating to £10,000, workplace pensions aren’t just a box-ticking exercise and need to be taken seriously.
What is a workplace pension?
The Pensions Act 2008 requires all companies to offer eligible staff a pension scheme which they must also contribute towards.
All employees over the age of 22 and earning at least £10,000 a year are automatically enrolled onto your workplace pension, paying into it through their pay packet. Employees eligible for automatic enrolment have the right to opt out within the first month, just as non-eligible staff can volunteer to opt in.
If your business was fully operational before 1 October 2017, you will have received a staging date. This is the time you must have given the Pensions Regulator details of all eligible staff.
Within six weeks of the staging date, you are required to inform all employees in writing about your workplace pension scheme and their rights, whether they’ll be automatically enrolled or not.
You then have five months within which to report to the Pensions Regulator that your workplace pension is up and running and contributions are being made.
If you’ve only set up in business and employed someone since 1 October 2017, then you must have a pension in place as soon as they begin working for you.
For further Employer information on Workplace Pensions you can visit the Pensions Regulators website here.
Ongoing compliance requirements
With an average of 50,000 small businesses a month auto-enrolling between 2015 and 2018, the demand for advice has overwhelmed specialists. It’s no surprise then that while many companies have complied with the administrative processes and deadlines, they’re failing to meet other, ongoing, requirements:
- Providing access for employees to proper financial advice and education.
- Taking regular independent financial advice on benefits and features available in the market.
- No system for ongoing governance of the scheme to ensure it remains compliant.
- Re-enrolling employees in the scheme. As a result, many employers are just looking for the simplest and cheapest option – missing out on the opportunity to greater incentivise their staff.
What is the penalty for failing to comply with Workplace Pensions auto-enrolment guidelines?
In 2017, Johnsons Shoe Company was fined £40,000 by the Pensions Regulator and paid £2,000 in costs.
Despite numerous reminders, Johnson’s failed to check which of its staff were qualified for auto enrolment and to inform the Pensions Regulator. The company claimed it had been too busy, which clearly cut no ice with the regulator.
More recently, this Summer the chairman of Samuel Smith Old Brewery was fined £8,000, and his company nearly £19,000, because they failed to provide the Pensions Regulator with information about the financial state of the business. (This was required for checks into whether its pension schemes were being supported adequately).
Some businesses have tried refusing to pay fines but they can be taken to court, and the regulator now has powers to seize assets! Professional advisors also have the responsibility to report any breaches to the regulator, so it is likely there will be more high profile examples coming into the spot light!
Black and White Accounting can help you with workplace pensions
If you’re not sure whether you’re meeting your ongoing workplace pension obligations, Black and White Accounting can help by providing timely and up-to-date advice. Ensuring that you avoid any fines and your employees receive a realistic pension.
To find out more about how we can help you, contact Black and White Accounting today, or ring us on 0800 140 4644.