It was revealed this week that The Pensions Regulator has been carrying out spot checks across the UK to ensure that employers are carrying out their duties as they should under the legislation. The most recent city visited is Glasgow in which inspection teams are currently visiting dozens of businesses in and around the city and will do so for the next few weeks to ensure staff are being given the workplace pensions that they are entitled to under auto enrolment.
The spot checks are part of a new nationwide enforcement campaign that first began in London in April and has seen it move across the UK to cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield. The checks that the inspectors make are designed to ensure that employers are carrying out their auto enrolment duties but are also tasked with highlighting any issues or challenges in getting their systems into place.
Darren Ryder, The Pensions Regulator's director of automatic enrolment, said: "The vast majority of employers become compliant ahead of their deadline but these visits help us to identify why some have not, so we can take action where we need to."
"Every employer has workplace pension duties and we are determined that every worker gets the pension they are entitled to. Automatic enrolment is not an option, it is the law. Where we find employers are not complying with the law, we will use our powers to make them comply."
In the UK, 640,000 employers have already met their auto enrolment duties and this has resulted in more than eight million workers now saving into a pension as a result, making the policy more popular and more successful than many pension experts ever thought. However, the process is not complete and many smaller companies are yet to auto enrol, many of whom may have never dealt with pensions before. Whilst the vast majority will undoubtedly comply with their obligations, according to Malcolm Mclean, former head of The Pensions Advisory Service, the visits will help send a message out to anyone considering not complying.
"Random spot checks will inevitably be controversial but will no doubt identify some miscreants and will send a message out more widely that member's rights must be honoured."
It is expected that as smaller employers reach their staging dates, the incidences of noncompliance may rise, thus making the proactive nature of The Pensions Regulator necessary. However, it is thought that in the majority of instances of noncompliance, it won't be willful but more due to a lack of understanding, time or resources. Therefore, it's important that for businesses that are yet to auto enrol, they engage with the process early and take advice from professionals if they see fit.