Fewer final-salary pension schemes as nearly a quarter close

The Momentum UK Team 15 December 2011

Private sector workers have found an increasing number of final-salary pension schemes have closed during the last year, an end of year survey has found.

According to an annual survey by the National Association of Pension Funds' (NAPF), an influential industrial body in pensions, 23% of schemes have been shut to existing savers and new staff in 2011.

These closures have risen significantly over the last three years; from 3% in 2008 and 17% in 2010.

It is estimated that nearly a quarter of a million workers have now moved out of the more lucrative final-salary pension scheme, as employers shift staff towards defined contribution schemes - one which place more risk with the employee.

The pension you receive on a final-salary related scheme is worked out according to your salary when you leave a company or retire and the length of time you have been a member of the scheme.

Comparatively, in defined contribution schemes, employees and employers have to make choices about the proportion of salary that goes into their pension pot. In some cases employers help contribute to the scheme. Although contributions are deducted from your salary before tax, it is riskier as it is usually invested in stocks and shares. The amount you receive will depend on both how much you and your employer pay in and how well the investments have performed.

Joanne Segars, chief executive at the NAPF, warned that more change is "certain", saying: "Final salary deals are coming off the table and are either being watered-down or replaced altogether.

"Demographic and financial pressures mean businesses are struggling to afford these pensions. Many firms are trying to get a grip on the risks and rising costs by freezing the fund to both new and existing staff."

The current economic climate and increased life expectancy have been cited as some of the main reasons for the closures as companies try to manage costs. Companies now either want to switch to defined contribution schemes or a to a career-average scheme similar to public sector pensions.

Despite the switch, the alternative schemes should not discourage savers.

Ms Segars continued, saying: "People will often find that the replacement pension on offer is a good one. It's encouraging to see that, despite the harsh economic climate, payments into defined contribution pensions by staff and their employers have remained stable.

"Whatever the type of pension, the main thing is to get more people saving. The UK simply isn't salting enough away for its old age."