Until recently, there wasn’t any apparent connection between an employer’s automatic enrolment duties and hacking, but this changed earlier this month, when The Pensions Regulator announced that it was to prosecute a recruitment company, Workchain Ltd, and seven related individuals. The regulator has a statutory objective to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment and it uses a range of tactics to achieve this. In this case, it employed a new tactic, which involved using legislation that had no direct connection with pensions whatsoever – namely, the Computer Misuse Act, 1990.
The Computer Misuse Act is normally associated with computer hacking offences. For example, last week, a teenager from Leicestershire was sentenced to two years at a youth detention centre for ten charges under the Computer Misuse Act. These included a catalogue of past actions against senior US intelligence officials, including hacking into the personal email account of CIA Director, John Brennan.
On a smaller scale, in 2008, the website of Labour MP, Harriet Harman, was hacked and changed to make it appear that she had defected to the Conservative Party. This type of activity could also fall under the Computer Misuse Act, although, in this case, the hacker has recently confessed, and Ms Harman has forgiven her, without any mention of criminal charges.
The specifics of the Workchain case are yet to be revealed, so we don’t know whether the allegations are true or whether the employees actually wanted to opt out. If the employees were opted out against their will, this would break the automatic enrolment rules, and the regulator would have been duty bound to act.
The defendants have been summonsed to appear at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 7th June.