Swindon Town FC fined £22k for AE failings

Counsell-Charles-2011-700x450.jpgSwindon Town FC has been fined more than £22,000 for automatic enrolment failures, TPR has confirmed.

Swindon Town Football Company Limited (STFC) received fines from The Pensions Regulator worth a total of £22,900 after it failed to put eligible workers into a pension scheme or comply with other workplace pension duties.

STFC was issued with a compliance notice on 18 August 2014 directing it to automatically enrol staff and pay contributions but failed to comply by the deadline of 17 October 2014.

STFC was issued with a compliance notice on 18 August 2014 directing it to automatically enrol staff and pay contributions but failed to comply by the deadline of 17 October 2014. As a consequence, TPR issued a £400 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) which the company failed to pay. An EPN was issued on 20 January 2015 as the compliance notice still hadn’t been complied with, informing the club that, if it did not comply within a 28-day period, it would be fined at the rate of £2,500 per day – the accrual rate based on the number of workers in STFC’s PAYE scheme.

STFC then made contact with TPR which provided guidance to the company on what it needed to do. The escalating penalty was stopped on 26 February 2015 once STFC had completed a declaration of compliance, provided supporting evidence and assured us that backdated contributions would be paid within two weeks. However, TPR subsequently received a late payment report from the pension provider that confirmed no pension contributions had been made, including back payments owed.

In response to a request from the company to review the EPN, TPR wrote to STFC explaining that the request was received outside the statutory 28-day period, and asked the company to get in touch urgently to discuss the outstanding pension contributions.

With no payments forthcoming, on 12 June 2015 an Unpaid Contributions Notice was issued requiring STFC to make the payments within 28 days. No response was received to this notice, and as a result TPR conducted an inspection on STFC, during which the company agreed to take specific action to fulfil its duties.

Despite initial progress, liaison with the pension provider revealed that some contributions were still outstanding. As a consequence, the club was issued with a second EPN on 17 December 2015 requiring the missing contributions to be made by 28 January 2016. The provider confirmed on 18 January 2016 that the contributions had been paid up.

TPR executive director of auto-enrolment Charles Counsell says: “This case illustrates what can happen when an employer buries their head in the sand and disregards their duties.

“If things aren’t going well, then talk to us; don’t ignore us. Failing to comply on time will not save you money. Not only do you risk a fine, you will also have to make back dated contributions.”