7 Days is a weekly round up of developments in pensions, normally published on Monday afternoons. We collate this information from key industry sources, such as the DWP, HMRC and TPR.
In this 7 Days
- New information sharing agreement between TPO and TPR
- Healthcare company fined for misleading TPR about workplace pensions
- TPR blog: Blowing the whistle on the secret pension offenders
- Brewery and chairman plead guilty in TPR information case
- TPR responds to WPC’s recommendations
- The Pensions Regulator v Strathmore Medical Practice (Decision of the Upper Tribunal, 2018)
TPO and TPR announced today, 21 May 2018, that they have agreed to share information with a view to “mutually enhancing their knowledge and understanding of developing pension issues”.
The parties’ information sharing agreement came into effect in March 2018, and gives details of the principles the organisations will follow when sharing information about complaints and concerns. It acknowledges that both organisations have shared goals and an overlap in responsibilities. Information concerning pension complaints handled by TPO may now be shared with TPR, helping to inform its investigation processes. Similarly, following an investigation of a pension scheme, TPR may now advise TPO of any concerns it has regarding that scheme’s failure to implement policy and procedural changes as recommended by TPR.
Through this agreement, TPO and TPR aim “to protect pension scheme members, endorse and support the achievement of higher standards across the industry and ensure a safe pensions saving environment”.
A healthcare company and its managing director have been ordered to pay more than £20,000 after they admitted misleading TPR about providing their staff with a workplace pension.
Crest Healthcare and its managing director each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR, and two counts of wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties. These are offences under the Pensions Act 2004 and Pensions Act 2008 respectively, which carry a maximum sentence on summary conviction in a magistrates’ court of an unlimited fine (or, in the Crown Court, a fine, or up to two years’ imprisonment, or both). Sentencing the company and director at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 15 May 2018, District Judge Teresa Szagun said that it was important to show that individuals and companies did not benefit from avoiding their automatic enrolment responsibilities. She went on to state that “The need to deter this type of offending requires a penalty proportionate with the seriousness of the offence.”
Judge Szagun fined Crest Healthcare £13,000 and ordered the company to pay £3,404 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. She fined its managing director £1,624 and also ordered her to pay £3,404 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
TPR has published a blog on how whistleblowers can assist TPR in its campaign against the “small minority” of employers who fail, or refuse, to comply with their automatic enrolment duties.
The blog, by Darren Ryder, TPR’s Director of Automatic Enrolment, notes that TPR currently receives more than 80 reports every week from people who suspect employers are breaking the law on workplace pensions, which in the last year alone have directly led to around 600 employers being investigated for non-compliance, including in the case of Crest Healthcare.
TPR has reported that Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster), and its Chairman Humphrey Smith, have pleaded guilty to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents to TPR. The case is the sixth criminal conviction secured by TPR against individuals or organisations for failing to comply with a notice issued under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 (requiring information to be provided to TPR) without a reasonable excuse, which is an offence under the Act.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said “This sends a clear message to employers that we are serious when we ask for information. We require it for good reason as part of our work to protect pension savers. Anyone who does not cooperate with our requests also risks getting a criminal record.”
The case has been adjourned for sentencing until 6 June 2018.
The Work and Pensions Committee (“WPC”) has published TPR’s response to its recommendations in relation to the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS). The WPC published its recommendations in a report in February 2018. TPR’s response was received on 18 April 2018 and has now been published by the committee.
In its response, TPR notes that it has considered the WPC’s report and in particular the recommendations directed specifically at TPR. TPR states that it is working “much more closely and proactively in partnership with the FCA and TPAS” to protect pension scheme members in the future.
The Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) has upheld an appeal by TPR against a First-tier Tribunal decision. The First-tier Tribunal had held that TPR’s decision to issue Strathmore Medical Practice with a fixed penalty notice for automatic enrolment compliance failings should be set aside.
For further details, please see our case report.