Robins Score Own Goal

April 29, 2016 Diana Niculaes

David Piltz
“The Regulator was, if anything, over patient.” David Piltz, EMEA Consulting and Market Leader

Swindon Town Football Club has had its ups and downs since it was founded in 1879. Highlights include a season in the Premier League in 1993 -94 and beating Arsenal 3-1 to win the League Cup in 1969. Currently 16th in League One, they have done enough to avoid relegation this year. The headlines however are all about the £22,900 fine the “Robins” have incurred from the Pensions Regulator for failing to put eligible staff into a pension scheme from their automatic enrolment staging date.

The Regulator was always going to have its hands full trying to get smaller employers to automatically enrol their workers as their staging dates came round. Fish and Chip shops and those employing a Nanny were more likely to be ignorant of the legal requirements, or to deliberately flout the law, in a way that the larger employers, such as the big supermarkets, could never hope (or want) to get away with. Imagine the damage to reputation on a big supermarket or coffee house if they even inadvertently got it wrong and were publicly named and shamed by the Regulator, the fine would be almost incidental.

Football teams make the press, and when I first heard Swindon Town had fallen foul of the Regulator I wondered if this was the Regulator making a high profile point to those smaller employers and Fish and Chip shops, comply or take a battering!

However, when I read the report issued by the Regulator, it became obvious that they had tried very hard to get the Robins to comply, and only after a series of yellow cards issued by the Regulator, and ignored by Swindon Town Football Club, was the Regulator backed into a position where it had no choice but to issue a fine. The Regulator was, if anything, over patient.

The club had a staging date  of 1 February 2014, which it ignored. It had to issue a Declaration of Compliance to the Regulator by 1 July 2014. It didn’t do that either. The Regulator issued a compliance notice on 18 August 2014 directing the club to automatically enrol staff and pay contributions by 17 October 2014 – nothing happened. The club was fined £400. A further notice, issued by the Regulator on 20 January 2015, said if the club did not comply within 28 days it would incur a daily penalty of £2,500. At least this got a reaction, and the club completed a Declaration of Compliance and assured the Regulator backdated contributions would be paid within 2 weeks. No payments were made, and a further notice was issued by the Regulator on 12 June 2015 which was ignored. Only at this point did the Regulator’s patience run out and it conducted an inspection on the club in September 2015. Then a further notice had to be issued by the Regulator before contributions were eventually paid in January 2016.

The moral of the story was summed up by the Regulator’s Charles Counsell who said “if things aren’t going well, then talk to us; don’t ignore us”. This was one own goal Swindon Town had plenty of chances to avoid even after they missed their staging date. I am sure their fans will think there were better ways they could have spent £22,900.

If you’d like more information about automatic enrolment, contact us at +44 (0)800 066 5433. You can also visit our website or email us.

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