FT Aadvisor 8 March 2018
A healthcare company and its managing director have been found guilty of misleading The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about providing their staff with a workplace pension.
Birmingham-based Crest Healthcare and managing director Sheila Aluko admitted recklessly providing false or misleading information to the regulator and wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties before Brighton Magistrates’ Court yesterday (7 March).
Ms Aluko had lied to The Pensions Regulator in March 2016 about informing and enrolling 25 staff into a workplace pension scheme.
But in reality, the court heard, the employer had not written to or enrolled any staff, it had not even fully set up a pension scheme and no pension contributions were paid.
What is more, Crest began deducting pension contributions from the wages of some workers but kept them in the company’s bank account and did not pay them into a pension scheme for more than eight months, the court heard.
It was only after a whistleblower raised the alarm that the pension scheme was set up and the contributions were paid in.
This was the first time the The Pensions Regulator has prosecuted an employer for knowingly providing false information in relation to auto-enrolment.
Darren Ryder, The Pensions Regulator’s director of automatic enrolment, said: “Sheila Aluko tried to conceal her company’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.”
He said the case should send a “clear message that it is unacceptable to dodge your pension responsibilities” and that further action would be taken against anyone failing in their duties.
Crest Healthcare and Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to the regulator and two charges of wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties.
Both charges carry a maximum sentence in a magistrates’ court of an unlimited fine.
If tried in a Crown Court the maximum sentence for each offence would have been two years’ imprisonment.
The case was adjourned for sentencing until 15 May.