Pension opt-out worry: Generous public sector schemes face biggest fall-out

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The Independent Online
Tens of thousands of employees opted out of their company pension schemes last year, a National Association of Pension Funds survey suggested yesterday.

The survey covered 4.4 million employees in nearly 900 pension schemes. It found 1 per cent of employees left schemes while remaining eligible for membership. Public sector pension schemes have a particular problem with opting out, with 3 per cent of employees leaving last year.

Tom Ross, the NAPF's vice- chairman, said this meant worryingly large numbers were turning their backs on the benefits of occupational pension schemes. The figures suggested that 44,000 people opted out of schemes covered by the survey, with perhaps many thousands more leavers among the other 6 million employees who belong to pension schemes.

The NAPF said that although some leavers might have been enticed into personal pension plans, others might simply have wanted to save on their pension contributions.

Mike Brown, director of information services, said the surprisingly high level of departures from generous public sector funds might reflect the difficulties larger organisations faced in communicating the benefits of their schemes.

Among employees newly eligible to join pension schemes, 19 per cent chose not to do so. Mr Ross said this reflected the abolition of compulsory membership rather than fears raised by the Maxwell affair.

The NAPF said the survey showed pensions were increased after retirement for most in an employer's scheme, and 58 per cent paid increases above the guaranteed level.