The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is to appoint high court enforcement officers (HCEOs) to enforce court orders or their equivalent on employers who have failed or refused to comply with auto-enrolment pension duties.
The HCEOs will operate in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and will have the ability to visit the business premises of employers who do not pay fines issued by TPR for auto-enrolment non-compliance. If TPR secures a court order due to the debt remaining unpaid, HCEOs will be able to seize items to sell from the employer’s operating site, up to the value of the amount owed. This could include seizing the employer’s vehicle.
HCEOs will have the power to force entry into locked commercial premises in order to remove assets.
HCEOs will additionally be used to collect payments for other fines or levies imposed by TPR that trustees or trust managers fail to pay, such as chair statement and scheme return offences.
TPR has not previously needed to use HCEOs.
Darren Ryder, director of automatic enrolment at TPR, said: “Automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law. Those who break the law by denying their staff the pension they are entitled to should expect to be punished, and must pay any fines they are given.
“[Auto-enrolment] has been a huge success thanks to the vast majority of employers who do exactly what they should, but a tiny minority not only ignore their automatic enrolment duties but fail to pay their fines, even after the courts have ordered them to.
“The use of HCEOs is a last resort for us. Unfortunately, the behaviour of a tiny minority means it may be necessary.”