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Automatic Enrolment: What happens if I don’t comply?

There are certain legal duties you must meet for automatic enrolment. If you don’t comply with your duties, we may take enforcement action.

  • You, the employer, are responsible for meeting your legal duties for automatic enrolment.
  • If you don’t comply, you may face enforcement action including compliance notices, and penalty notices (fines).
  • If you receive a penalty notice, you can pay your fine online.
  • If you comply late, we expect you to pay back any missed contributions to put staff in the position they would have been in if you had complied on time; this would include backdating contributions to the day that your staff member first met the age and earnings criteria to be put into a scheme.
  • We expect that you inform staff that they have the option to backdate their own contributions.
  • If you don’t pay your fine, we can recover the debt through the courts.

If you are late meeting your duties

Our overall approach is to educate and enable you to comply with the legislation.

If you haven’t understood your duties or have been unable to comply, we’ll provide support to enable you to comply. However, if you have ignored your duties, we may use our powers to ensure compliance.

If you are late complying or think you might be, you should tell us about it straight away.
You should aim to put all staff back in the position they would have been in if you had complied on time.

For example, if you didn’t put a member of staff into a pension scheme when you should’ve done, you will need to:

  • put them into a pension scheme
  • backdate contributions to the day that they first met the age and earnings criteria to be put into a scheme, so that your member of staff does not lose out
  • give your staff member the option to pay their own backdated contributions – they can choose whether or not they want to do this.

How we investigate non-compliance

We have a range of powers for use in our non-compliance investigations.

As well as requesting information from employers voluntarily, we’re able to issue formal notices asking for information and we’re able to carry out inspections at the employer’s premises. We will use the courts to carry out investigations where necessary.

Our investigations are conducted to the highest standards, ensuring we regulate with fairness, transparency and consistency.

How we enforce

Warning letter

If you haven’t met your legal duties, you may first get a warning letter with a deadline for you to meet your duties. Call the phone number on your letter or email and we’ll tell you what you need to do to meet your legal duties. If you don’t meet your duties within the deadline you may be sent a statutory notice.

Statutory notices

A statutory notice will tell you to comply with your duties and / or pay any contributions you have missed or are late in paying. We may also estimate and charge interest on unpaid contributions and tell you to calculate and / or pay unpaid contributions. It is important that you take action to meet your duties within the time frame, or you may be issued a penalty notice.

Penalty notices

We can issue penalty notices if you fail to comply with a statutory notice, or to address particular kinds of breach.

Fixed penalty notice 

If you don’t comply with statutory notices, or if there’s evidence of breaches of the law, you may be sent a fixed penalty notice. The fine is fixed at £400 and must be paid within the period set out in the penalty notice.

Escalating penalty notice

If you still don’t comply with a statutory notice you may be sent an escalating penalty notice. This gives you a new deadline to comply, after which you will be fined at a daily rate of £50 to £10,000, depending on the number of staff you have. The fine will continue to grow at the daily rate until you comply with the statutory notice, or until we stop it.

Prohibited recruitment conduct penalty notice

If you don’t comply with a prohibited recruitment conduct compliance notice or there is evidence of a breach, you may be sent a penalty notice. This fine has a prescribed rate of £1,000 to £5,000, depending on the number of staff you have.

Pay your penalty notice online

If you have received a penalty notice, you can pay your fine using our secure online payment service. You will need your penalty notice reference for this (shown on the front of your notice).

You must pay by the date shown on the front of your penalty notice. If you don’t pay the fine we may carry out formal legal proceedings to recover the penalty.

Pay your penalty notice

If your notice reference begins with AE, you should follow the payment instructions on the notice as you won’t be able to pay it online.

Appeal against a notice

If you believe that you should not have been issued a notice, you can appeal. The first step is to apply to us for a review of the notice. You can only do this within 28 days of the date of the notice. If you are appealing against an escalating penalty notice, the 28 days still run from the date of the notice, and not the deadline for compliance or the date when the fine starts to add up.

Find out how to apply for a review. If you disagree with the review decision and the notice includes a penalty you can appeal to a tribunal.


Wilfully failing to put eligible staff into a pension scheme and knowingly providing false information in a declaration of compliance are criminal offences. If we prosecute you, the maximum punishment is two years in prison.

Source: The Pensions Regulator