An investigation by the Pensions Regulator (TPR) has found senior staff at a recruitment firm impersonated their employees to opt them out of their auto-enrolment pensions.
Managers and directors of Workchain, a Midlands-based recruitment firm, managed to opt-out temporary staff from their National Employment Savings Trust (Nest) pensions by logging on to their online systems.
The ploy was encouraged by Workchain’s owners and directors Phil Tong and Adam Hinkley. Managers and compliance officers of the firm then logged on to the Nest system to opt-out the staff from their pensions.
If the scheme had gone unnoticed it would have meant Workchain could have avoided paying employee pension contributions.
Following a prosecution by TPR seven individuals from Workchain, including the two owners, pleaded guilty to an offence of unauthorised access to computer data – the offence carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment. This is the first time TPR has prosecuted for this crime.
Darren Ryder, TPR’s director of automatic enrolment, warned any other firm which tries to opt-out their staff on their behalf will face prosecution.
‘Workchain’s directors saw denying their temporary workers pensions as a quick and easy way to save the company money. Both they and their senior staff thought nothing of misusing Nest’s online portal. Thanks to the vigilance of Nest, their attempt to cheat the automatic enrolment system failed.
‘Automatic enrolment is not an option, it’s the law and the law is clear - no one can opt a worker out of a pension scheme, even if the worker agrees. Those who try to avoid their pension responsibilities in this way face prosecution.’