What Happens to Company Pensions During Liquidation?

an old man at a desk counting his money thinking about his pension in liquidation

For many company directors, a significant portion of their financial stability and future plans are tied to their company pension pot. It is thus critical to understand what happens to company pensions in the event of a company liquidation.

In essence, liquidation is the legal procedure that involves winding up a company, selling its assets and distributing the proceeds to its creditors. It’s a process that can be voluntary or compulsory, and each has its own implications. However, amidst all these complexities, what becomes of the company pensions? Are they protected or do they also face the risk of being wiped out?

Understanding the connection between liquidation and company pensions is not just a good idea—it’s an absolute necessity. Having a clear picture of the potential outcomes can provide directors with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions and possibly avert problems before they arise.

Throughout this article, we aim to shed light on this complex issue and provide you with the impartial help needed to guide you through these challenging times. In connection with moneyhelper, we will outline the basics of company pension and liquidation, discussing the potential ramifications on your retirement plans so you can rest assured that you have all the information you need.

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Understanding Liquidation

Liquidation is a legal process where a company’s operations are brought to an end, and its assets are distributed to creditors and shareholders, based on the priority of their claims. It typically occurs when a company is insolvent, meaning it cannot pay its obligations when they are due.

There are several types of liquidation:

Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL)

This is when the directors of the company themselves acknowledge that the company can no longer continue its operations and should be liquidated to pay off creditors. More about this can be found here.

Compulsory Liquidation

This form of liquidation is typically initiated by creditors who are seeking repayment of debts. They file a petition to the court, and if approved, the court orders the liquidation of the company’s assets. You can find more information on this here.

Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL)

Unlike the other forms of liquidation, MVL is a procedure used by solvent companies. The directors may wish to retire, or the company may have fulfilled its purpose, leading to voluntary liquidation. Further details are available here.

In any of these scenarios, a liquidator is appointed to oversee the process, sell the company’s assets, and distribute the proceeds to the creditors. Following this, the company is dissolved. The consequences of liquidation can be extensive, affecting all areas of the business, including employees’ jobs and pensions.

Company Pensions and Liquidation

Company pensions, often termed as ‘occupational’ or ‘workplace’ pensions, are a type of retirement plan set up by employers to provide their employees with income post-retirement. Essentially, both you and your employer pay into this pot, which is then invested to generate a lump sum or regular income when you decide to retire.

The key point to remember here is that the company pension is a distinct legal entity, separate from the company’s own trading activities and finances. This separation serves as a protective barrier safeguarding the pension pot against the company’s financial difficulties.

When it comes to liquidation, the fear is understandably that these funds, into which you’ve been diligently contributing, may be at risk. However, the general rule is that the pension scheme assets are protected from the company’s creditors in the event of liquidation. This means that if a company goes into liquidation, the pension scheme will generally remain intact.

However, it’s important to note that the protection offered to pensions in liquidation doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the pension scheme will have enough funds to meet all its obligations. If the company has been contributing less than the required amount, or if the pension scheme has been poorly managed, there may be a shortfall.

In such circumstances, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) might come into play. The PPF is a government-backed body that provides compensation to members of eligible defined benefit pension schemes when there is a shortfall due to the sponsoring employer’s insolvency. This service provides a degree of security to scheme members, although it may not cover the full amount of the pension you were expecting.

In the case of a defined contribution pension scheme, the situation is slightly different. Here, the money you receive upon retirement depends on how much has been paid into the scheme and how well the investments have performed. In the event of a company’s liquidation, your pension pot is generally safe as it’s held separately from the company, typically by a pension provider.

The state of a company’s finances at the time of liquidation can undoubtedly have ramifications on the pension scheme, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion that your pension pot will be wiped out. Impartial help from a professional can offer the easy way to understand your pension choices and guide you through the process.

Finally, it’s also important to know that accessing your pension pot early or transferring your pension funds can have tax and other implications. It’s therefore advisable to review your options and seek professional advice before making any decisions.

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Protecting Your Pension During Liquidation

If you find yourself in the precarious situation where your company is facing liquidation, safeguarding your pension pot should be a priority. Fortunately, there are various options and services available to help ensure that your retirement plans aren’t heavily impacted.

Firstly, be proactive in keeping abreast with the company’s financial health and the status of your pension scheme. Regularly review the annual statements provided by your pension provider. These documents give an overview of how your pension pot is performing and the amount of money accumulated so far. They also help you keep track of any potential problems that may affect your future income.

An essential resource for managing your pension is the government’s Gateway portal. It allows you to easily access all your state pension information online. By using the Government Gateway service, you can verify your identity, review your state pension forecast, and see when you can claim it. This can prove invaluable when assessing the state of your overall retirement income.

Next, consider the option of securing professional advice. MoneyHelper, for example, is a government-backed service that offers free and impartial help to understand your pension choices. They provide you with tailored information based on your specific circumstances, aiding you in navigating complex financial decisions.

If you find that your company’s pension scheme is underfunded or is likely to be affected by the liquidation process, it may be worth considering transferring your pension pot to a different scheme. This is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and advice. Bear in mind that transferring your pension pot may not be the best course of action in all situations and may even attract tax implications.

In some cases, drawing a lump sum from your pension pot, provided you are of the requisite age, could be a strategic move to safeguard your funds against the potential fallout from the liquidation. However, accessing your pension early could lead to a lower income in retirement and may have tax implications. Therefore, this should only be considered after seeking expert advice.

Overall, protecting your pension during company liquidation involves maintaining a connection with your pension pot, staying informed and utilising resources like the Government Gateway and MoneyHelper. Remember, professional advice tailored to your circumstances can provide the best way forward.

Pension Pot and Liquidation

When a company is facing liquidation, understanding what happens to the pension pot is vital for company directors. In general, if your company is limited and is going into liquidation, your personal assets, including your pension pot, are usually protected. However, there are different scenarios depending on the type of pension you have.

If your pension is a ‘defined contribution’ scheme, it is typically safe in a liquidation scenario. These pensions are separate from the company, and your pension pot should be secure with the scheme’s trustee or insurance company, even if the firm becomes insolvent.

On the other hand, ‘defined benefit’ or ‘final salary’ schemes could potentially be at risk if the company can’t meet its pension obligations. In such instances, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) steps in. PPF is a safety net for members of defined benefit pension schemes, offering some level of compensation for those whose schemes have fallen into deficit due to employer insolvency.

Another important aspect to consider is the implications of taking a lump sum from your pension pot during liquidation. This decision can be a lifesaver in the short term, providing instant access to cash. However, it’s worth noting that drawing out a lump sum could affect the income you’ll have in retirement. Furthermore, depending on the amount you withdraw, you may have to pay tax on the lump sum. It’s vital to get advice before making such a decision, as the results could impact your financial health in the long term.

Lastly, be aware of pension liberation fraud, which becomes a growing concern during times of financial uncertainty. This involves being approached by companies offering an ‘easy way’ to access your pension before the state pension age, usually through an unsolicited text message or phone call. Remember, accessing your pension pot before you’re 55 is typically only possible in exceptional circumstances, and otherwise, it’s likely to be a scam.

Understanding your options and the impact of each decision on your pension pot during company liquidation is crucial. It’s always advisable to seek impartial help from financial advisors or services like MoneyHelper before making any significant decisions.

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How to Navigate Pension Issues in Liquidation

Navigating through pension issues in a liquidation scenario can be a complex task. However, there are several strategies you can utilise to protect your retirement income and plan for the future, even in these challenging circumstances.

Accessing Impartial Help and Advice

First and foremost, seeking expert advice is crucial. MoneyHelper, formerly known as The Pensions Advisory Service, is an excellent place to start. This government-backed service offers free, impartial help for those needing information and guidance about pensions. You can access MoneyHelper via the government gateway, a centralised platform for public services.

Independent financial advisors can also provide personalised advice based on your unique circumstances and financial objectives. They can review your current pension arrangements, help you understand the implications of the liquidation on your pension pot and advise on the best course of action.

Planning for the Future and Retirement

During liquidation, it’s essential to review your retirement plans. Even if the current circumstances seem dire, keep in mind that your retirement is a long-term plan. Continue to focus on your future, as difficult as that may be at the moment.

While it might be tempting to access your pension pot early to alleviate current financial issues, it’s worth considering the potential long-term impact. Remember, the money you withdraw now is income that you won’t have in your retirement.

If your company goes into liquidation and you’re made redundant, you might be entitled to a redundancy payment, which can provide some financial relief and give you some breathing space to figure out your next steps.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to revisit your pension choices periodically, not just in the face of company liquidation. Regular reviews ensure that your pension arrangements align with your changing circumstances and future plans.

Above all, stay informed and proactive. Keep an eye on updates from your pension scheme, government websites, and trusted financial news sources. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help if you’re unsure about anything.


In conclusion, it’s crucial to understand that the implications of company liquidation extend far beyond the immediate cessation of business operations and asset distribution. For directors and employees alike, the impact on their pensions can be significant. As we have discussed, the company pension, pension pot, and any lump sums could be at risk during liquidation.

Although the Government provides some pension choices and state pension information, the situation is complex. Understanding the options available, the potential tax implications, and the potential effects on your future income can be challenging. It’s a complicated process with many interconnected parts that need to be carefully reviewed.

Given the serious implications, it’s highly recommended for company directors to seek professional, impartial help when navigating these tricky waters. Services like MoneyHelper can provide invaluable guidance, but individual circumstances often demand individual solutions. Therefore, consulting with a professional with expertise in company liquidation and pensions is a wise course of action.

Your pension is an essential part of your retirement plans and securing your financial future. Do not leave it to chance. Seek help, review your options, and make informed decisions to ensure the best possible outcome under challenging circumstances.

FAQ Section

In this section, we will address some frequently asked questions about company pensions and liquidation. We hope this information will help you navigate your way through the complexities of this topic.

Can I access my company pension early if my company is going into liquidation?

Access to your company pension will largely depend on the terms of your pension scheme and your age. Under UK law, you typically cannot access your pension pot until you’re at least 55. However, if you’re facing ill health or certain specific circumstances, you might be able to access it earlier. It’s essential to seek impartial help and advice to understand your options better.

Is my pension protected if the company goes into liquidation?

If your pension is part of a defined contribution scheme, your pension is generally safe as the funds are held separately from the company’s assets. If it’s a defined benefit scheme, your pension may be at risk. However, most of these schemes are covered by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which protects members if their pension scheme cannot afford to pay what they were promised.

How can I track down a pension from a company that has gone into liquidation?

If you’re having trouble tracking down a pension from a company that has gone into liquidation, you can use the Pension Tracing Service on the Government’s website. This service can help you find contact details for your pension scheme.

What happens to my state pension if my company goes into liquidation?

Your state pension is separate from your company pension and should not be affected by your company’s liquidation. The state pension is paid by the Government, and your eligibility is based on your National Insurance record.

Can I transfer my pension if my company is going into liquidation?

Yes, you usually can transfer your pension to another scheme if your company is going into liquidation. However, it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly, and you should seek advice before making such a move. Keep in mind that the transfer values can fluctuate, and you might not benefit as much as you think by transferring.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Government Gateway – GOV.UK

Pensions and retirement | Help with pensions and retirement | MoneyHelper

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

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