The biggest change in pensions for over 100 years automatic enrolment has been welcomed by finance experts, business leaders and the government.
From today, large firms, such as banks and supermarkets, will be required by law to pay into a workforce pensions for those staff who do not opt out. By the end of the year, the Department for Work & Pensions estimates that around 600,000 more people in the UK will be saving into a workplace pension.
'This is a game-changer that will get millions of people saving for their retirement. The UK is drifting towards an iceberg when it comes to paying for its old age, and we need radical reform like this,' said Joanne Segars, the chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds.
'Things have got to change. Less than half the workforce is saving into a pension and, without auto-enrolment, millions would end up scraping by on the state pension alone. Putting everyone into a workplace pension will help reverse years of decline in retirement saving.'
The new duties will be phased in so that by 2018 all employers will be covered. Employers will have to contribute at least 3% of the qualifying earnings of their employees.
CBI director general John Cridland said that it was a 'new dawn' for pension savers and that the message from business was 'we're in'.
'Firms are committed to helping staff achieve a good income in retirement, and the hope is that auto-enrolment will encourage employees to think long-term about their finances to achieve this goal. Boosting pension savings will help us look after our increasing number of elderly people and tackle the ticking retirement time-bomb,' he said.
Pensions minister Steve Webb said the government was 'proud to be introducing this truly historic change'. He pointed out that currently only one in three adults is contributing to a pension, while people are living much longer.
'If we can get between 6 and 9 million more people saving in a pension by the time all employers are in, that's a genuine savings revolution,' Webb added.
But Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, said that saving the minimum amount into a pension was unlikely to allow people to live comfortably in their later years.
'There is a danger of people being lulled into a false sense of security,' she warned.