The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has begun carrying out spot checks across the North East of England to identify employers that are not complying with their pension duties.
In the last month inspection teams have visited more than a dozen businesses in towns and cities across the region - including Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, North Shields, South Shields, Bishop Auckland and Stockton-on-Tees - to check that qualifying staff are being given the workplace pensions they are entitled to.
It is part of a nationwide enforcement campaign which began in London last year, ensuring employers are meeting their automatic enrolment duties correctly.
This was the first time these checks have been done in the North East. Short-notice inspections have already begun in Northern Ireland, South Wales, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, among others.
The checks help TPR to understand whether employers are facing any unnecessary challenges that we can help them with, such as issues with their systems that we can offer guidance about.
But they also highlight employers who have not taken the required steps to become or remain compliant, paving the way for enforcement action against them.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment, said:
"The vast majority of employers are compliant with the law but we are continuing to find a very small proportion of employers who aren’t.
“In some cases this is down to innocent error. Our visits help us identify why some employers may be struggling so we can support them.
“But where we find employers are not complying, in particular when they appear to be doing so deliberately, we will use our powers to ensure they comply so that their workers receive the pensions they are entitled to."
More than 1.1 million employers across the UK have met their automatic enrolment duties, with more than 9.4 million workers gaining workplace pensions as a result.
Data to the end of February 2018 reveals around 3,600 employers in Newcastle, 1,600 in Middlesbrough, 1,000 in Hartlepool, 2,000 in North Tyneside, 1,400 in South Tyneside, 5,900 in County Durham and 2,300 in Stockton-on-Tees have met their automatic enrolment duties. As a result more than 150,000 people in those areas have been put into a workplace pension. Across the North East more than 250,000 people are now saving into a pension thanks to automatic enrolment.
1. Our most recent quarterly automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement bulletin shows that between October and December 2017, TPR issued a total of 7,435 fixed penalty notices and 1,440 escalating penalty notices to employers for non-compliance.
2. Inspections are carried out under section 74 of the Pensions Act 2004. More information on our powers is set out in our automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement strategy.
3. Employers are usually notified about an inspection a matter of days in advance of our visit. Those being visited include organisations that we suspect may not be compliant or who we believe are at risk of becoming non-compliant in the future.
4. TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).