The Pensions Regulator has highlighted that its use of auto-enrolment (AE) enforcement powers is back to pre-pandemic levels following measures introduced to support firms as Covid-19 struck.
The watchdog makes sure that UK employers put their staff into a pension scheme and pay money into it. It also makes sure that workplace pension schemes are run properly so that people can save safely for their later years.
The regulator's latest compliance and enforcement bulletin shows the total use of AE powers in the first half of this year soared to 77,032 compared to 41,398 for July to December 2020.
Use of the powers in the six-month period before the pandemic had totalled 73,164.
Measures were introduced in March 2020 to ensure struggling employers were not unduly fined.
Meanwhile, new statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions on workplace pension participation show trends in pension contributions have remained relatively stable over the Covid-19 period.
While employee contribution rates slightly reduced in early 2020, these have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Mel Charles, director of auto-enrolment at the regulator, said: "We have been clear with employers throughout the pandemic that they continue to have automatic enrolment duties and the majority have done the right thing for their staff despite the challenges.
"While we introduced measures in the early months of lockdown to allow struggling employers more time to achieve compliance and avoid being unduly fined, figures just published demonstrate we have continued to robustly protect savers, using our powers where necessary to protect savers."
Mr Charles urged employers to ensure they plan ahead, including financial planning, so they continue to make the correct pensions contributions for their staff without the need for the watchdog to take enforcement action.
He also highlighted that, despite the financial pressures felt by many, people have continued to save for their retirement and that they continue to expect a pension as part and parcel of their jobs.
The regulator's bulletin shows that in the six-month period from January to June 2021:
*It issued 35,087 Compliance Notices, compared to 25,783 between July and December 2020.
*It handed out 11,921 Unpaid Contributions Notices as against 4,090 previously; 22,542 Fixed Penalty Notices compared to 8,445; and 7,407 Escalating Penalty Notices as against 2,964.
The bulletin also shows how the use of the watchdog's frontline regulation powers has seen an increase. The total number of statutory powers used was 288 between January and June compared with 268 previously.