Employers who persistently ignore their duties to place staff into a workplace pension risk their credit record being hit, a regulator has warned.
The Pensions Regulator said it is starting to see the first employers receive county court judgments (CCJs) for failing to pay automatic enrolment fines.
This could happen if an employer persistently ignores penalty notices sent to it by the regulator.
Employers failing to pay within 30 days of receiving a CCJ have the details entered on their credit record, affecting their ability to borrow money for their business in future.
The regulator said that so far, only a few CCJs have been handed out, but more are being applied for.
Charles Counsell, executive director of automatic enrolment, said: "A CCJ goes onto an employer's credit record and remains there for six years, seriously affecting their ability to borrow money for their business in the future.
"Burying your head in the sand and ignoring your legal duties means your staff are missing out on pensions they are entitled to and your credit rating and reputation could be hit."
The rollout of automatic enrolment started in 2012 with larger companies. Thousands of small and micro employers, some just employing one or two people, are now being brought on board the flagship savings scheme.
The regulator said that between October and December 2016, 2,919 £400 fixed penalty notices were issued, bringing the total since 2012 to 9,831.
In the same period, 870 escalating penalty notices were issued, bringing the total so far to 1,477.
The Pensions Regulator said the rising number of fines reflects the large numbers of employers reaching their deadlines to comply.
The regulator said the hospitality sector, including pubs, clubs and bars, had attracted a particularly high proportion of fines for non-compliance. It said the sector tends to have a large number of temporary workers.
Mr Counsell continued: "Our message to small and micro employers has always been to ensure they leave enough time and be clear about what they will need to do to comply. We are here to help - but we will take action if an employer is wilfully non-compliant.
"There's plenty of information on our website on how to assess and enrol people who work varying hours, so there's no excuse not to comply."