UK

Final Salary Pensions Closed To New Staff 'At Record Levels' Research Suggests

28/01/2013 07:06 GMT | Updated 28/01/2013 07:08 GMT

Firms have closed final salary pension schemes to new staff at the fastest rate on record, new research revealed today.

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) said only 13% of final salary pensions were open to new joiners last year, a fall of a third from 2011.

It was the biggest reduction since comparable figures started in 2005, when almost half of private sector schemes were open to all employees.

The association's annual survey also showed that the defined benefit funds were increasingly closing to workers already in them.

Higher liabilities created by quantitative easing and low gilt yields have prompted a "barrage" of closures, said the NAPF.

Chief executive Joanne Segars said: "The pressures on final salary pensions have proven too great for many businesses. The growing liabilities fuelled by quantitative easing will have been a factor behind the record hike in closures.

"Those starting a new job in the private sector have next to no chance of getting a final salary pension. What was once the norm is now a very rare offer, and those who are currently saving into one may find it gets closed."

Segars said private sector pensions were "far from finished", with more than two million workers still saving into one.

"It is essential the Government shows them more support in managing some extremely testing economic circumstances."

The new automatic enrolment system will bring millions of workers into a new breed of pension that will dominate in the private sector, the association added.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "The recently announced state pension reforms will cost private sector employees about £1 billion in extra tax and will further accelerate the juggernaut of final salary closures.

"Many employers aren't interested in providing for a dignified retirement for their workers. The new requirements for automatic enrolment will provide a minimum framework, but this won't be enough."

TUC pensions officer Craig Berry said: "It is good to see that NAPF members are making increased contributions to their DC pensions, but this does not give an accurate picture across Britain's workplaces.

"Government figures show that the majority of DC scheme members have employer contributions of less than 8%. In contract-based DC schemes two in five members receive less than 4%.

"If employers want to get rid of the risk they shoulder in DB schemes, they should recognise that DC pensions are less efficient and need higher contributions to ensure the same income in retirement."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "Millions of people still benefit from final salary schemes, but their increasing costs means that over the decades many have closed to new members. Automatic enrolment into a workplace pension will see many millions more people saving for their retirement, with a contribution from the employer.

"We are working with the industry to ensure that pensions people will be enrolled in continue to be high-quality, low-cost, and we encourage all those who can to go beyond the minimum contribution to ensure they get a retirement income that meets their aspirations."