Small businesses 'face pension threat'

17-08-2006

The government's pensions policy has been attacked as "too complex" and "overly reliant on means-testing" by the Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA).

Publishing the results of a survey analysing the state of pension provision among small businesses in the UK, the ACA has found that many companies are lowering rather than increasing expenditure because of time management and cost concerns.

As a result, workplace pensions in smaller firms are "under growing threat", with many firms in this sector considering further benefit changes.

Firms employing 250 or fewer workers have shown a "steep decline" in defined benefit coverage, with many "levelling-down" to lower cost schemes.

"The survey has found many small firms are valiantly struggling to offer pension arrangements in the face of changes that have added greatly to costs in recent years," commented Ian Farr, chairman of the ACA.

"Any finalised reform that makes their lives more complicated is likely to be counter-productive."

Mr Farr suggested that the ACA survey's findings threaten the national pensions savings scheme (NPSS) proposed by the government in response to findings that 60 per cent of the UK workforce are not saving enough for retirement.

He believes that forcing businesses to contribute to some employees' personal accounts because they can't afford to invest in all employees through the firm's scheme could be detrimental to the government's policy – and that deregulation would be a more effective way forward.

"The… key conclusion is that workplace pension arrangements… will only recover or take root in the smaller firms sector and elsewhere if the government's commitment, made in the White Paper, to rolling back regulation and costs is followed through into genuine and significant easements to legislation and regulation," Mr Farr concluded.


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