The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has lashed out at claims that nearly all the businesses that challenged auto-enrolment fines had them overturned.
A report by payroll platform Paycircle suggested 82 per cent of businesses that pushed back on penalties imposed by TPR had them either "revoked, substituted or varied" during the last quarter.
However, TPR condemned the analysis. A spokesperson said:
It is not correct to suggest a large percentage of businesses have had statutory notices from TPR altered or revoked. In fact, just fewer than 10 per cent of the employers who have been issued a statutory notice have asked for it to be reviewed. The majority of employers who receive a notice go on to comply with their duties.
Catherine Pinkney, the co-Founder of Paycircle, said the "gargantuan administrative task" of rolling out auto-enrolment meant that incorrectly issued penalty notices were an inevitability. She said:
The percentage of fines being revoked is a real cause for concern. With over 80 per cent of businesses successfully having their statutory notices either altered or revoked, some might argue the regulator has been too heavy-handed in its auto-enrolment enforcement.
TPR rejected these accusations. “Far from being heavy handed with our enforcement, by September this year our 'educate and enable' approach had helped more than a quarter of a million employers meet their automatic enrolment duties and put more than 6m workers into a pension,” its spokesperson said.
According to the data, a total of 19,825 "selected powers" orders – a variety of notices that include penalties and fines – were issued by the TPR, of which just 7.5 per cent, or 1,487, were challenged and reviewed: of these 1,221 were altered in some way.
Meanwhile Paycircle went on to encourage businesses to challenge TPR notices: “As this data proves, if you feel the penalty you have received is unfair, the chances are you can get the decision either changed or reversed entirely.”
In response, the watchdog urged businesses not to get into the situation of being fined in the first place.
“We urge people not to ignore letters from us and to get in touch if they feel they are not subject to automatic enrolment before they receive a statutory notice or fine."