Employer-Sponsored Retirement Programs Take on Heightened Importance for Canadian Workers, Towers Watson Survey Finds

Defined Benefit Retirement Plans Play Strong Role in Employment Decisions

TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2012 /CNW/ - Compensation preferences among Canadian workers reveal that a secure pension plan is an increasingly important component of an attractive pay package. According to a survey by global professional services company Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW), one-third of Canadian employees would be willing to sacrifice a portion of their compensation in return for enhanced retirement security, while one in four would agree to forgo a bonus in exchange for additional retirement benefits.

"As financial insecurity becomes more widespread, Canadian workers are increasingly interested in a secure rewards package with retirement benefits they can count on" said Ian Markham, Retirement Innovation Leader for Towers Watson. "While Canadians have traditionally looked to employer-sponsored retirement plans as one part of their financial future, the fact that so many workers are willing to trade pay increases or bonuses for enhanced retirement security points to the significant unease that many employees hold towards financial planning for their retirement years."

"The survey results clearly reflect concern among Canadian workers about whether they will outlive their retirement savings" said John McIntosh, Plan Design Issue Leader at Towers Watson. "If this concern translates to widespread delays in retirement, Canadian employers will be faced with many challenges from the shifting workplace demographic. An older workforce could affect everything from health and productivity to succession planning and the expectations for training and development of the next generation required for future growth."

Pursuit of Retirement Security Affects Employment Decision
For sponsors of Defined Benefit (DB) plans (plans which pay a regular monthly benefit), the news is more positive. The Towers Watson survey found that 50% of respondents with a DB plan identified their retirement program as a key reason for joining their current employer, compared to 30% of respondents with a Defined Contribution (DC) plan or Group RRSP, where the payout is dependent on the investment fortunes of the plan member.

DB plans appear to play an even more significant role in retention. Depending on age, between 62% and 71% of Canadian DB plan participants cite their retirement program as a compelling reason to remain with their current employer, compared to between 30% and 50% of those with a DC plan. Younger DB plan participants under 40 years of age were twice as likely to stay with their current employer, compared to those with a DC plan.

The survey also revealed that a change from a DB plan to a DC plan has a strong effect on employee commitment and loyalty. While 75% of respondents whose DB plan had been changed in the last three years, but remained DB, say that they would like to continue working for their employer until they retire, that number decreases to 53% for respondents whose employers have changed to a DC plan.

"In both good and bad economic times, building and keeping a talented workforce remains a critical business need. The survey findings reinforce the idea that organizations sponsoring DB plans can achieve a more stable workforce than those offering a DC plan," said Markham. "Understanding worker preferences toward their reward programs creates an opportunity for employers to highlight the value of their retirement plans to current and prospective employees — a potential advantage for any business that places a priority on retaining talent and organizational experience."

About the Survey

The 2011-2012 Towers Watson Retirement Attitudes Survey includes responses from 1,577 full-time Canadian employees at private-sector organizations with 1,000 or more employees. For more information, visit http://www.towerswatson.com/canada-english/research/7717.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers solutions in the areas of employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at towerswatson.com.

SOURCE: Towers Watson

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Media Contact: 

Leslie Jackson

416-355-7421

Leslie.jackson@ketchum.com

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