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Swindon Town Football club feels the full force of the Pensions Regulator

Swindon Town Football Club has scored an own goal with a late penalty – or, at least, a penalty for being late.

The Pensions Regulator has fined the club a massive £22,900 for failing to comply with its auto enrolment responsibilities.

The club was initially issued with a compliance notice by the Pensions Regulator on 18 August 2014, requiring the club to auto enrol its staff by 17 October 2014.

There were then a number of additional delays in the club complying with its duties, which led to the escalating fine. Although the club is now complying, it must also meet back-dated pensions contributions on top of the fine, which it settled in February 2016.

The Regulator said that the club had failed to put eligible staff into a pension scheme from their ‘staging date’ when automatic enrolment started to apply, had failed to pay contributions and had failed to write to staff explaining how automatic enrolment affected them.

Companies that fail to meet auto-enrolment duties face an initial £400 fixed penalty and the possibility of further escalating fines if they continue to fail to comply. By December last year, more than 1,500 fixed penalties had been issued since the start of auto enrolment, along with 31 escalating penalty notices.

Swindon Town is not the first employer to face substantial penalties. Its case follows a previous fine imposed by the Pensions Regulator of £10,000 where an employer failed to auto enrol its staff by the required staging date. The employer received an initial fine of £400 but still failed to comply. The Regulator subsequently issued a compliance notice requiring payment of both the employer and employee contribution arrears.

The employer eventually appointed an adviser. However, as a result of its non-compliance, the employer incurred an additional fine of £10,000 and had to pay around £15,000 in employee back-dated contributions.

Both these cases demonstrate that the Pensions Regulator appears to be taking a firm and uncompromising stance on employers who fail to comply with their auto enrolment responsibilities. With fines running at £2,500 per day for non-compliance, employers face heavy financial penalties.

All these costs and penalties are avoidable and it is important that you do not fall into the trap of ’burying your head in the sand’ when it comes to auto enrolment. All employers now have a legal obligation to automatically enrol eligible jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme. HR4UK can help you to understand these responsibilities and ensure that you avoid falling ‘foul’ of any pension regulations and risking fines from the Pension Regulator.

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