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Workplace pension duties and how to avoid a fine

finesDon’t ignore letters from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) as it will cost time as well as money to put matters right if you fail to comply with workplace pension duties.

Auto enrolment legislation makes it compulsory for employers to enrol eligible staff into a workplace pension scheme.

If you don’t comply with some of your duties, such as paying contributions into the scheme on time, or you fail to set up a pension scheme altogether, you may get a warning or even a fine.

Making mistakes

TPR will write to you with your staging date – the date by which you must have a pension in place. If you don’t know what your staging date is you can find out on the TPR website. You’ll need your PAYE reference.

If TPR finds that you’ve not carried out your workplace pension duties on time you might get a Statutory Compliance Notice. This is a warning notice that will tell you what action you need to take to put things right.

If you’ve made a genuine mistake and take steps to rectify the problem or you own up to TPR that you’ve made a mistake such as missing your deadline or failing to make contributions, then it may take a sympathetic view and give you a chance to make amends.

But if you fail to sort out the problem satisfactorily, you run the risk of being issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). This is a fine of £400 which needs to be paid within a specified period.

If you still don’t take appropriate action to become compliant on time or, worse still, ignore the letter altogether, you run the risk of being issued with an Escalating Penalty Notice (EPN). This will specify the date by which you must comply with certain actions or face paying a fine which builds up at a daily rate.

The EPN will depend on the number of employees you have and ranges from £50 a day for businesses with 1-4 employees to £500 a day for employers with 5-49 members of staff. So businesses ignoring pension legislation can rack up serious fines.

What if none of my staff are entitled to a pension?

Even if you don’t enrol anyone into the scheme you must complete your declaration of compliance to let TPR know that you’ve complied with your duties.

If you have non-eligible or entitled staff you’ll need to check each time you pay them that they haven’t become eligible. If there’s a change in their circumstances, such as a birthday where somebody turns 22, you’ll need to set up a scheme and enrol entitled employees.

What if I’m exempt from auto enrolment?

You might be exempt from auto enrolment if you’re the sole director and worker, you have a number of directors who aren’t workers and don’t have an employment contract or you have a number of directors and only one of them is a worker with an employment contract.

TPR might not necessarily know that you’re exempt and if you get a letter with a staging date you must tell them that you’re exempt and why, otherwise you risk a fine. You can tell them you’re exempt online. You’ll need your letter code and PAYE reference if you have one.

More information

The Pensions Regulator Duties checker

Guidance on assessing your workers Will your employees need a pension?

What to do if you’re exempt from auto enrolment?

The Pensions Regulator FAQs

TPR guidance: Compliance and enforcement strategy

NOW: Pensions: What to do if you miss your staging date