TPR to extend late contribution payment reporting deadline

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) will be extending the late payment reporting deadline, giving employers more time to pay pension contributions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, the regulator has amended rules on reporting late payments from employers for workplace pension schemes to “focus on the more serious cases in these turbulent times".

Smith stated: “Ordinarily late payments are reported using the regulator’s portal once 90 days late. This will now change to after 150 days.

Smith's comments follow a message to pension providers from the regulator, with broader industry guidance expected to be published later today.

A TPR spokesperson confirmed: “We will shortly be publishing guidance on our updated enforcement approach for automatic enrolment (AE), once we have adjusted our processes.

“In these unprecedented times, we are highly aware of the strain employers are under due to covid-19 and the impact this will have on their business, staff and resources.

"To help employers, we are working closely with pension providers and asking them to be as flexible as possible when agreeing payment plans so that some employers can pay AE contributions over a longer period if necessary.

They added: “We expect employers to continue to meet their automatic enrolment duties towards their staff including paying the correct contributions across to the scheme on time.

“However, in order to lessen the burden on them, we are temporarily limiting some enforcement activity."

The regulator emphasised however, that it expected all missed contributions to be "made up in full" to avoid staff missing out, and has asked providers to continue reporting to ensure accurate records to support this.

Smith echoed this, clarifying there has been no change to employer’s responsibility to pass on both their own and their employees’ contributions to the pension provider on time.

Furthermore, providers and trustees will still remain responsible for monitoring and challenging late payments, but will have greater time and discretion as to how they resolve these issues throughout the crisis.

Smith emphasised: “Contributions must always be paid as they are after all part of employees’ reward package, and should not be held on to by employers for other purposes.

Rules for persistent late payers, or where fraudulent activity is suspected, will remain in place however.

Smith added: “Pension providers will continue to report cases where the employer becomes insolvent, fraudulent activity is suspected, where outstanding contributions are £100,000 and above and where previously unpaid contributions have been resolved.”

TPR emphasised that the new guidance was in line with it's "proportionate and risk-based approach to the crisis, announced in previous COVID-19 guidance earlier this week.

The Department for Work and Pensions has also published updated guidance to pension scheme administrators this week, including guidance on rent holidays and issues obtaining 'wet signatures'.

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