The administrators that handled the insolvency of Francis Catering Equipment and the subsequent transfer of its assets to Unitech are currently looking into irregularities surrounding the former company’s employee pension scheme, Catering Insight has learned.
FRP Advisory is working to establish the value of an apparent pension deficit, which could see former employees of the now-defunct Francis business issue claims for outstanding amounts.
Steve Stokes, partner at FRP Advisory and joint liquidator of Francis Catering Equipment and its associated company, Specialised Stainless Products, said: “We are aware of an issue relating to employee pension contributions prior to the insolvencies of Francis Catering Equipment and Specialised Stainless Products, and have written to those employees affected seeking confirmation of pension deductions from their salaries.
“Once we have confirmed the value of deductions, this information will be passed to the Redundancy Payments Service. As part of the insolvency process, we will also consider any residual claims of the former employees.”
Ex-Francis Catering Equipment managing director, Neil Humphries, confirmed to Catering Insight that he is aware of the situation and acknowledged that there are pension issues relating to the old company that are currently in the process of being resolved.
“These stem from administrative confusion between ourselves and our external payroll providers around the staging date for auto enrolment,” he explained. “We accept our part in this scenario and have therefore been working for a number of months with the administrators for the business, FRP Advisory, to ensure that they have all of the relevant information. They are now working on behalf of all past and present employees and directors to obtain the best possible outcome for all.”
Sources familiar with the situation told Catering Insight that ahead of workplace pension automatic enrolments in 2015, Francis instituted what staff believed was a pension programme, but payments that employees made into the scheme did not show up on records when they were enrolled into Unitech’s Scottish Widows pension scheme, following their transfer over to the new company.
Unitech is understood to be aiming to alleviate the situation, with options under consideration including setting aside future profits to reimburse the affected employees that now work for its business.
Humphries has now left Francis Commercial Kitchen Services, the new entity formed by Unitech Industries’ purchase of the Midlands-based distributor’s assets in October 2017.
On his departure he commented: “I have headed up the sales side of the business in one capacity or another for some 25 years. Having now overseen both the integration and relocation of the business into the Unitech Industries Group, I felt it now needed a new and different voice to oversee the next phase of its development and take on board the wider group offerings and strategy.
“I leave behind an excellent team, and know that under the stewardship of Nick Imlah and the Unitech Group they will now go from strength to strength. It also allows me personally to now explore new opportunities for the next phase of my career.”