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DB schemes on the decline in smaller firms

Defined benefit schemes in smaller firms are on the decline with an increasing number of firms levelling down to lower cost schemes, according to a new survey by the Association of Consulting Actuaries.

Almost three quarters of defined benefit schemes in firms with less than 250 employees are now closed to new entrants with 41 per cent also closed to future accruals.

This represents a marked change from 2005 figures which showed only ten per cent closed to future accruals in larger schemes.

There is also evidence that small firms, which employ 58 per cent of the UK work force, are levelling down to lower cost DB schemes, such as stakeholder and group personal pensions.

The study shows 24 per cent of trust-based defined contribution schemes and nine per cent of group personal pensions are closed to new entrants in favour of lower cost stakeholder plans.

The average ongoing funding level of these smaller DB schemes is 69 per cent, down from 80 per cent reported in 2004.

Sixty one per cent of firms say the Pensions Commission’s state pension reforms are overly complex, with 68 per cent saying these do not create a clear incentive for savings.

Eighty eight per cent of firms support more work on the idea of a consolidated state pension combining the basic state pension and earnings-related S2P.

ACA chairman Ian Farr says: “The survey results underscore that businesses and their employees need to see a simple State Pension Scheme in place upon which to build any second-tier private pension.
For simplicity’s sake, a further look is needed at removing the S2P at greater speed and at ways to reduce means testing to a much lower level than proposed.”

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