Birmingham-based Crest Healthcare and managing director Sheila Aluko each pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR and two counts of wilfully failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties when they appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 7 March.
A whistleblower prompted the investigation into Crest Healthcare after contacting TPR to complain that workers at the company suspected that they had been misled into falsely believing that their pension scheme was up and running. Contributions were being taken from the pay packets of the workers but Crest Healthcare would not give them information about their scheme.
Sentencing the company and Aluko today, District Judge Teresa Szagun said that it was important to show that individuals and companies did not benefit from avoiding their automatic enrolment responsibilities.
Judge Szagun fined Crest Healthcare £13,000 and ordered the company to pay £3,404 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. She fined Sheila Aluko £1,624 and ordered her to pay £3,404 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
The judge said Aluko “must, as an intelligent businesswoman, have appreciated the obligations on her and also the intent of automatic enrolment” and said her response to the requests of the whistleblower was “dismissive”.
She said: “The need to deter this type of offending requires a penalty proportionate with the seriousness of the offence.”
TPR director of automatic enrolmentDarren Ryder says:“Whistleblowers have a vital role to play in helping us ensure workers are getting the pensions they are entitled to.
“The whistleblower in this case highlighted that workers who asked Sheila Aluko about their pensions were being fobbed off with the false claim that they had been automatically enrolled. When we investigated, Aluko’s story unravelled.
“I would urge anyone who believes their employer is breaching its automatic enrolment duties to contact us.
“We will not tolerate non-compliance and, as this case shows, neither will the courts.”