I’ve been having problems with my workplace pension for almost two years. Looking at my payslip, it looks like a percentage of my wages has been deducted for my workplace pension and that my employer has been contributing to the pension too. But I keep getting letters from the pension company to say they haven’t received the money. My colleagues have been affected by the same problem. What should we do?
Helen, 30, Hull
I’m sorry that you’ve had problems with your workplace pension. This is a frustrating situation to be in. Take pride in the fact that you’re being proactive and looking for ways to fix the problem.
Just so you know, I have no specialist pension experience or legal qualifications. The information I’ve included below is based on my own research and people I’ve spoken to. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the issue of missing pensions and employers’ failure to comply with their legal responsibilities, but I’m no expert. Thankfully, the resources I provide you with below should be able to help.
Contact your pension provider
The letters you’ve received from your pension provider should include a contact number. Give them a ring and ask if they have any more information about the missing contributions.
They may be able to tell you exactly how much money is missing, saving you the hassle of doing the sums yourself. They should also be willing to provide you with a transaction statement. This should show which months your pension contributions (and your employer’s contributions) made it into the account and which months they didn’t.
Talk to your boss
Once you’ve gained more info from your pension provider, you need to bring the issue up with your boss. Perhaps you and your colleagues could get together and acknowledge the issue as a group. Explain that you’ve been getting letters from the pension company to say they haven’t received the necessary contributions and ask the boss to take action.
It may be an honest mistake but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Your pension is important and your employer has a legal responsibility to pay it on time. The fact this has been a consistent problem suggests fast action needs to be taken to get your money back.
Contact The Pensions Regulator
If your employer doesn’t take the responsibility seriously and rectify it quickly, the next step is to report your employer to The Pensions Regulator. You can do this via the missing workplace pension contribution form.
There’s also a form to report your employer for overall non-compliance with their workplace pension duties.
Reporting your employer for wrong-doing can understandably be scary. Thankfully, there’s an option to to be anonymous when reporting concerns to The Pensions Regulator. This means that no one will know your identity.
However, it is useful for The Pensions Regulator to have your contact details in case they need to ask you for more information. There is whistleblowing protection under the Employment Rights Act 1996 which protects most employees if they raise a concern about wrongdoing.
Although it’s wise to report your employer to The Pensions Regulator, if an assessment or investigation is carried out, it is unable to give feedback on the outcome due to legal reasons. This can be frustrating if you’d like to get to the bottom of the problem as soon as possible and receive regular updates.
Thankfully, the next step can be more transparent…
Contact The Pensions Ombudsman
Now it’s time to get in touch with the big dogs. The Pensions Ombudsman tends to have far more power than The Pensions Regulator. If your employer isn’t taking the issue seriously, this may be what it takes to get you and your colleagues your money back.
The Pensions Ombudsman has legal powers to settle complaints and disputes. Its service is free, fair and impartial.
Visit The Pensions Ombudsman’s Making a Complaint page and follow the instructions. The form shouldn’t take too long to fill in but try to go into as much detail as possible and be as accurate as possible.
If you’re unsure how much money has gone missing, don’t let this put you off making a complaint. If you don’t have the exact figures, just give your best estimate while explaining that you’re not 100% sure how much has gone missing.
Once you’ve completed the form, The Pensions Ombudsman may be in touch to discuss the case in more detail. They may also contact you by post to request that you send off documents that provide more information.
I’d recommend making photocopies of any payslips and correspondence from your pensions company. If you followed my earlier suggestion of getting a transaction statement, include this if you think it’ll help your case.
ACAS aren’t directly pensions regulated, but they can help you tackle issues at work in a proactive and non-confrontational way.
I’ve dealt with ACAS about employment issues in the past and I can’t recommend them highly enough. All you need to do is give them a call, explain your situation as best as you can, and they’ll give you free and unbiased advice on what to do next. Their support is confidential and you don’t have to tell them your name or employment details. Their job is simply to listen to your problem and advise you on the next steps.
Join a trade union if you’re not already a part of one
If you’re not already a part of a trade union, I’d strongly recommend joining one. Your workplace might have an internal union for workers but if there isn’t one within your company, there are external unions you can join.
Did you know that if you join a union when you already have an employment issue, you may struggle to access the support and representation you need quickly? Think of it like trying to take out an insurance policy on phone or laptop that’s already broken.
This is why I’m advising you to join a union as soon as possible. Hopefully, your pension problems will get sorted quickly but if they don’t and you need representation at a later date, you’ll have a union on your side if things get more tricky.
Take a look at the TUC website to learn more about unions and find the right one for you.