The Pensions Regulator issued employers with fines of £23.1m in the last financial year for non-compliance with auto-enrolment duties, with one employer fined £350,000.
In the year ended 31 March 2020, a total of 48,267 fines were issued for non-compliance with fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and escalating penalty notices (EPNs) issued under section 40 and 41 of the Pensions Act 2008, TPR’s annual statement confirms.
Other enforcement activity included former charity chairman Patrick McLarry receiving a five-year jail sentence – the longest prison term TPR has secured – for a £250,000 fraud.
TPR’s annual report also highlights deficit repair contributions were up £11.4bn over the period while the average length of recovery plans re-submitted to TPR fell from 7.5 years to 7.1 years.
TPR chairman Mark Boyle said: “Our Annual Report demonstrates how our clear, quick, tough approach left us in an excellent position to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of the financial year.
“Our organisational structure and culture provided a solid base for our COVID response. We have continued to support those we regulate to manage risks and protect pension scheme benefits in an effective, confident and organised way.
“Undoubtedly, we will continue to be affected by external challenges – but I’m confident we will be able to maintain our focus on our statutory duties and ensure workplace pensions continue to work.”
TPR chief executive Charles Counsell says: “This year we’ve been able to ensure more people save into workplace pensions, that more is being contributed into workplace pensions and that there has been a reduction in recovery plan lengths across defined benefit schemes and there is better protection for the 16 million savers through our master trust authorisation process.
“Every saver deserves to be in a well-run and well-governed pension scheme and we have successfully driven up standards across schemes thank to our supervisory approach. We have been in direct contact with more schemes than ever, creating strong, two-way relationships allowing us to monitor closely, clearly outline expectations and prevent problems developing in the first place.
“I’m pleased most schemes have welcomed our engagement and responded by improving standards. This year’s four regulatory initiatives saw us starting our engagement with 1,200 schemes on issues such as scheme funding and record-keeping driving up standards further and better protecting savers’ interests.
“Post-Covid-19, we will be focusing resources on supporting those schemes that need our ongoing attention, including those affected by the pandemic. I’m confident we will be able to further drive up standards when as we look to return to our full supervisory evaluation cycle later in the year.”