UK– Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods manufacturer, has reaffirmed its commitment to its final salary pension scheme in the UK by bringing to an end a decade-long contributions holiday for more than 15,000 of its UK employees.

In a move to shore up its final salary scheme, existing members will be asked to contribute 2% of their salary to the pension fund from the beginning of next year. It is anticipated that this rate will increase to a maximum of 5% beginning January 2004.

Staff joining next year will be asked to contribute 5% for the first five years of their employment, after which their contributions will be adjusted to reflect those being paid into the fund by current members.

The results of the latest triennial actuarial valuation of the fund, which is shortly to be published, are expected to reveal a small surplus.

As Richard Greenhalgh, chairman of Unilever, UK says “we are committed to retaining a final salary scheme in the UK, as far forward into the future as anyone can see.” In view of current poor performance and downturn in equity markets, he sees the resumption of contributions as a “prudent” measure in meeting this commitment.

For its part, Unilever will also resume making contributions to the pension scheme. From January 2002, it will contribute 7% of the UK salary roll which is expected to rise to 13% in 2004.