Compliance spot checks
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has begun carrying out spot checks to ensure employers are complying with their automatic enrolment duties. These inspections are designed not only to identify where employers are failing to meet their duties, but to also help TPR understand the challenges employers may be facing. While the vast majority of employers have already passed their staging dates, there are still ongoing responsibilities they must fulfil.
TPR have confirmed that they will continue with their checks over the coming months. They will normally send a statutory notice to the selected employers ahead of their visits.
Below, we outline some of the issues and ongoing enrolment duties employers face.
There are concerns some employers are not following the correct procedures. TPR report that they seen a number of instances of employers agreeing to opt staff out of a workplace pension before they have been enrolled. However, this is in breach of the auto enrolment rules. According to TPR:
Some employers claimed they were unaware as to the formality of their duties or process they needed to follow, and had simply been trying to do their staff a favour by offering them the option of opting out up front. But whether their motivation was genuine, or whether they were simply trying to get out of paying their staff the pension contributions they were due, the result was the same – they were in breach of their legal duties. Eligible staff need to be enrolled first, and can then opt out. One of the cornerstones of automatic enrolment is capitalising on inertia, and it has proved very successful so far in helping people who might never have saved for retirement before.
As part of your responsibilities as an employer, you must put certain staff back into a pension scheme every three years – this is called ‘re-enrolment’. These duties must be carried out three years after your initial automatic enrolment staging date.
While your duties will vary depending on whether you have staff to re-enrol, you will still need to complete a re-declaration of compliance to demonstrate how you have met your duties. Both re-enrolment and re-declaration are part of your legal duty if you employ staff, and you can be subject to a fine if you ignore them.
- Choose your re-enrolment date within a six-month window, three years after your staging date
- Assess your staff to determine whether you need to put them back into your pension scheme
- Write to staff that you have re-enrolled
- Complete your re-declaration of compliance to demonstrate how you’ve met your legal duties
TPR have provided a useful document to help guide you through the process.
Auto enrolment for new employers
The process of auto enrolment has been phased in from October 2012 when the largest employers had to comply with the rules. However, new employers will now have to comply with their automatic enrolment legal duties as soon as they employ their first member of staff.
This can cause confusion as an employer who first pays an employee from 2 April 2017 onwards will have a staging date of January or February 2018 (depending on when the first employee was paid). Employers are generally able to postpone some of their auto enrolment duties for up to three months, but this needs to be dealt with correctly.
Executive Director of Automatic Enrolment Charles Counsell states:
More than seven million are now saving into a workplace pension and automatic enrolment is now simply part of running a business. From October, as soon as you take on staff you will have duties towards them. Anyone setting up a business and taking on staff will need to work automatic enrolment into their plans.
For further information on how we can help your business meet its auto enrolment obligations, please get in touch with Roy Thompson on 01903 534587 or using the contact form below.