Employer prosecuted for 'unacceptable' pensions lies

Employer prosecuted for 'unacceptable' pensions lies

An accountant is facing the possibly of an unlimited fine after lying to the Pensions Regulator (TPR) about staff pensions, according to the BBC.

Hashmukh Shah, reported that staff at Gran Caffe Londra in London had a pension scheme to avoid an inspection, despite their being no such scheme in place. However, an investigation was triggered after the company missed its deadline to automatically enrol staff into a pension in October 2015.

Shah lied to the investigators, telling them the firm has met its obligations. However, he later admitted his deception and the company complied in March this year and has backdated contributions.

TPR Director Darren Ryder said that Shah’s actions were inexcusable. "It is totally unacceptable for an accountant or any other professional to file false documents to purposely avoid meeting an employer's automatic enrolment pension duties,” he said.

"There is no legitimate excuse for such action, which denies staff the savings they deserve for their retirement."

The BBC reports that this case is the first time the pensions watchdog has prosecuted a third-party on behalf of an employer, and the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. Shah will be sentenced on 5 September.

What does the law say?

The Pensions Advisory Service explains that UK employers must put certain staff into a workplace pension scheme and contribute towards it. This is called 'automatic enrolment'. Staff are allowed to leave if they choose (called ‘opting out’), but they will automatically be enrolled again in three years’ time.  

And TPR warns that the penalties an employer may face if they don’t comply could be severe – starting at a penalty notice fine of £400 all the way though to prosecution which could result in two years in prison.

From our magazine

If you realise you have made a mistake, don’t panic - TPR state that they intend to “educate and enable you to comply.” As such, you can contact them for advice and to work out the next step.

Their site suggests that if you didn’t put a member of staff into a pension scheme when you should’ve done, you will need to:

  • put them into a pension scheme

  • backdate contributions to the day that they first met the age and earnings criteria to be put into a scheme, so that your member of staff does not lose out

  • give your staff member the option to pay their own backdated contributions - they can choose whether or not they want to do this.

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