Final salary pension schemes are 'finished'

Friday, 05 June 2009 06:15

Final salary pension scheme no longer have a future, a senior pensions expert has predicted.

This week Barclays decided to close its final salary scheme to existing workers, and BP will close its to new workers from April next year.

Supermarket Morrisons has also now decided to switch from a final salary scheme to an average salary over career scheme for existing members.

While five years ago 40 per cent of companies offered final salary schemes – promising a pension income based on the level of the final salary – now just four FTSE 100 firms – Shell, Tesco, Cadbury and Diageo – offer workers such schemes.

Ros Altmann, pensions policy advisor, said: “If anyone was previously still in doubt as to whether these schemes had a viable future, the latest announcements should have removed the uncertainty.

“The government’s failure to help employers through the last few years and failure to prepare individuals for the future they face have meant even bigger retirement risks for private sector workers.

“Public sector workers, however, have remained protected.”

She added the demise of traditional pension schemes is a serious issue for the future, as more and more employees face uncertainty in retirement, with inadequate state pensions, no employer to rely on and an annuity market that they do not understand.

Dr Altmann explained firms were ditching final salary pension schemes largely because of the cost.

“Given the enormous costs involved, the question for most boards is not why should they close their scheme, but why should they keep it open,” she said.

“A final salary pension adds well over 20 per cent to payroll costs and, given the large deficits in most schemes, the costs could well rise to over 40 per cent in coming years.

“21st century employers and shareholders are simply unwilling to write the huge blank cheques associated with final salary pensions any more, especially as most of their competitors do not do so and loyal lifelong employment has become a thing of the past. The trend is unstoppable.”

She added with more firms set to announce deficits and cutting pension, saving for retirement is increasingly the responsibility of individuals.

Dr Altmann also hit out at policymakers in the public sector and on final salary schemes.

“Policymakers are cocooned in their own pensions world, seemingly oblivious of what is happening in the private sector. Policy has fallen far behind the needs of the population. The increasing divide between private and public sector schemes cannot continue indefinitely,” she said.

“But in the meantime, more and more younger workers face a bleak retirement on inadequate state pensions and disappearing private provision.

“They will have to keep working far longer than expected, or face an impoverished old age.”

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