The Pensions Regulator has been successful in its first prosecution for a company's wilful failure automatically to enrol its staff into a workplace pension as required under the UK's Pensions Act 2008. Stotts Tours (Oldham) and its managing director pleaded guilty to a total of 16 offences at Brighton Magistrates Court, on the basis that it should have enrolled 36 of its staff into a qualifying pension scheme and paid mandatory minimum contributions since June 2015. The organisation is separately facing potential civil fines from the Pensions Regulator for non-compliance.

Whilst the Pensions Regulator has previously imposed fines in respect of such failures, a move to prosecution marks a strong shift in its approach to enforcement. In the press releases that have subsequently been released, they have been keen to stress that "automatic-enrolment is not an option, it is the law" and that criminal prosecution is now a real option where organisations wilfully fail to comply with the regime. As such breaches may attract unlimited fines in a magistrates' court, or two years' imprisonment in a crown court, organisations would be wise to prioritise auto-enrolment compliance where this has not yet been implemented.

A full statement from the Pensions Regulator can be found here.