Senior agency staff face further delay in sentencing hearing

Senior staff at a national recruitment agency face a further delay to find out if they will be jailed for illegally opting out temporary workers from their workplace pension scheme.

Back in April, Recruiter reported that the Pensions Regulator planned to prosecute Workchain, its directors and some of its senior staff on the suspicion of impersonating their temporary workers to opt them out of the pension scheme, saving them money.

Seven staff at Workchain pleaded guilty to the offence in June, but they will have to wait until October to find out their punishment after a series of sentencing delays.

The regulator prosecuted Workchain, two directors (Phil Tong and Adam Hinkley), financial controller Hannah Armson, HR and compliance officer Lisa Neal, and branch managers Martin West, Robert Tomlinson and Andrew Thorpe for an offence of unauthorised access to computer data, contrary to section 1(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

All of the defendants pleaded guilty to the offence when they appeared at Derby Magistrates’ Court in early June and a sentencing hearing was set for 28 June at Derby Crown Court.

However, that hearing was put back to 1 August and a spokesperson for the regulator further revealed to Recruiter that because the case had moved from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court the defendants could face unlimited fines and up to a year in prison.

After a further delay, the regulator set a date for 24 August, but late last week an official spokesperson told Recruiter the sentencing hearing has now been adjourned to 26 October, following legal argument taking place on 25 October at Derby Crown Court.

Workchain owners and directors Tong and Hinkley were found to have encouraged five senior staff at the agency to get the temporary workers out of the scheme meaning the agency could avoid making pension payments on their behalf.

Armson, Neal, West, Tomlinson and Thorpe cooperated in opting workers out of The National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) workplace pension scheme using its online system.

A joint investigation into Workchain involving the regulator, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, Derbyshire Constabulary and Nottinghamshire Constabulary followed on from NEST reporting its concerns about Workchain to the regulator in May 2014.