The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has fined high street firm Johnson Shoes £40,000 after it repeatedly failed to enrol its staff into a pension scheme because it was "too busy".
The firm was required to stage under the auto-enrolment (AE) regime by 1 May 2014, and then complete its declaration of compliance by 30 September 2014, but missed both deadlines.
It then missed a renewed deadline from TPR of 29 June 2015, leading to the watchdog issuing a £400 fixed penalty notice in July. The firm paid in September but still failed to complete a declaration of compliance.
In November, TPR issued the firm with an escalating penalty notice (EPN) which then took effect on 8 December. The EPN meant the firm built up a fine of £2,500 per day until 23 December, when it submitted its declaration of compliance and agreed to backdate contributions.
The fine by this point already totalled £40,000, but the firm refused to pay it, causing TPR to lodge a claim with the county court on 5 January 2017. The firm challenged the claim, setting cogs in motion for a court date, before eventually paying the fine on 30 March.
The watchdog had already racked up £2,000 of court costs by this date, and so Johnsons was also forced to meet these fees. Overall, the company was made to pay more than 100 times the amount it was originally charged, by continuing to ignore its AE duties.
TPR's outgoing executive director of AE Charles Counsell said the firm could easily have avoided the "unnecessary" fine.
"The failure by Johnsons to act, despite our repeated warnings, left it with a completely unnecessary bill that was more than 100 times the amount it was originally fined," he said.
"We will use all the powers available to us against the minority who choose to ignore their duties. Our message is clear: fail to comply with the law and you may be fined. Fail to pay your fine and we may take you to court."
Johnsons Shoes had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
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