I can recall once falling out with a pensioner friend by opining that Company Pensions were only ever a bribe to stop the working class ever voting anything like Communist. Any corporate justification for such ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the culmination of the Cold War.
The primary obstruction to the sale of BHS was its pension liabilities, which must have been a drag on its ultimate profitability to any prospective new owners. I suspect that many FTSE listed companies have been similarly afflicted since the Dot Com stock market crash, and more recently low interest rates on relatively safe investments. Furthermore, most companies have downsized or outsourced, therefore reducing the number of workers contributing to what may now be little better than a Ponzi Scheme !
One major problem with company pensions was that in the 1990s some of those in their 50s ( who had bought their house outright cheap and perhaps suffering from slightly failing health ) would do everything they could to sabotage the efficient operation of their workplace. The object of their exercise being to receive a large redundancy payment in addition to their pension, even if it was reduced from what they may have expected at 65.
The same is probably true with Local Authority pensions, and perhaps now 20% of everyone’s Council Tax is spent on plugging the deficit so that retired Fat Cat Officers can live a life of luxury. Tata Steel employee’s had to accept reduced pensions as part of the rescue deal, but perhaps a CAP on individual maximum annual payments would have been fairer on those genuinely disabled, since they now lose their ESA after one year if they have other income.
Of course Company Pensions are protected by the Pension Protection Fund, which has just invested in a Queensland Government owned major Cattle business. However, as for Private Pensions, you are probably better advised to stuff all your spare cash into your mattress, at present financial advisers think that you have done well if your Unit Trust portfolio has only lost 3% over the past year !