More than 160 employers were issued with fixed penalties of £400 last year after The Pensions Regulator (TPR) ramped up the use of its powers for auto-enrolment failures.
166 businesses were issued with fines in the last quarter of last year, compared to only three firms receiving penalties in the previous nine months. This increase coincided with a bulge in the number of medium-sized firms obliged to complete auto-enrolment last year.
There was also a surge in the number of compliance notices issued in the final quarter at 1,139, compared to 163 between July and September 2014. Employers are obliged to a submit a formal document, known as a declaration of compliance, to the regulator within five months of the firm's start date for the auto enrolment process.
The Pensions Regulator spokesman, Charles Counsell, has made it clear that it expects more firms to be fined as the enrolment process gathers momentum. "The number of employers approaching the date when they must confirm that they have complied with new workplace pensions duties (known as a declaration of compliance) is now beginning to rise significantly," he said. "With the mass market roll out of automatic enrolment to large numbers of small businesses in the coming months, we expect to see an increase in how often we need to use our powers."
The main reason for not signing up employees to a pension scheme on time seems to be that some employers have just not given themselves enough time to prepare. The regulator recommends that firms start planning at least a year before their staging date for beginning their auto-enrolment process.