Crest Healthcare and its managing director have been sentenced to pay more than £20,000 in fines after being found guilty of not complying with auto-enrolment duties, and of providing false information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) about a workplace pension scheme.
The Birmingham-based organisation and managing director Sheila Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR, and to two charges of wilfully failing to comply with auto-enrolment duties, at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 7 March 2018.
The case concerns Crest Healthcare’s declaration of compliance, 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 began to deduct pension contributions from some employees; however, TPR stated that this money 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.
Crest Healthcare and Aluko were sentenced on Tuesday 15 May 2018. Crest Healthcare has been ordered to pay a £13,000 fine, £3,404 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
Aluko has been ordered to pay a £1,624 fine, £3,404 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
Knowingly providing false information to TPR is an offence under Section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004, and wilfully failing to comply with auto-enrolment duties is an offence under Section 45 of the Pensions Act 2008. These charges carry a maximum sentence in a magistrates’ court of an unlimited fine.
Teresa Szagun, district judge, said: “The need to deter this type of offending requires a penalty proportionate with the seriousness of the offence.”
Darren Ryder, director of automatic enrolment at TPR, added: “Whistleblowers have a vital role to play in helping us ensure [employees] are getting the pensions they are entitled to.
“The whistleblower in this case highlighted that [employees] who asked Shelia Aluko about their pensions were being fobbed off with the false claim that they had been automatically enrolled. When we investigated, Aluko’s story unravelled.
“I would urge anyone who believes their employer is breaching its automatic enrolment duties to contact us. We will not tolerate non-compliance and, as this case shows, neither will the courts.”
Crest Healthcare was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.