Crest Healthcare and its managing director, Sheila Aluko, have pleaded guilty to not complying with auto-enrolment duties and to providing false information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about a workplace pension scheme.
The healthcare organisation and Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR, which is an offence under section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004, as well as pleading guilty to two charges of wilfully failing to comply with auto-enrolment duties. This is an offence under section 45 of the Pensions Act 2008, which states that employers must make prescribed arrangements by which employees become active members of an automatic-enrolment pension scheme.
The maximum sentence that can be delivered in a magistrates’ court for these forms of non-compliance is an unlimited fine.
The case concerns Crest Healthcare’s declaration of compliance that was submitted to TPR on 22 March 2016. This stated that the organisation had complied with its auto-enrolment duties to write to staff regarding setting up a workplace pension and stated that Crest Healthcare had enrolled all eligible employees into the scheme.
TPR accused Crest Healthcare and Aluko of not setting up a workplace pension scheme, not automatically enrolling employees into the scheme and not informing staff about auto-enrolment. The regulator also claimed that pension contributions had not been paid.
At a later date, Crest Healthcare begun to deduct pension contributions from some employees, however, TPR stated that this was kept in the organisation’s bank account and was not paid into a workplace pension scheme for more than eight months. TPR also claimed that it was only after a whistleblower came forward that a workplace pension scheme was set up and the contributions were paid in to this.
The case was heard on Wednesday 7 March 2018 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court. It has been adjourned for sentencing until Tuesday 15 May 2018.
Darren Ryder, director of automatic-enrolment at TPR, said: “Sheila Aluko tried to conceal her [organisation’s] non-compliance by hiding behind false information and misleading her staff that their pensions were up and running. It was only after we intervened that the employer finally complied with its duties and provided its staff with the workplace pensions they were entitled to.
“While the majority of employers are doing the right thing, this case sends a clear message that it is unacceptable to dodge pension responsibilities, and that we will take action against those [that] try to.”
Aluko declined to comment.