Business reaction to the Pension Commission report ranged from a broad, if hedged, welcome to outright hostility and predictions of British jobs disappearing to China.
Reform of the country's ailing pensions system is in need of an overhaul, leaders said. But they went on to stress that companies should not be left to pick up the tab by making employer contributions to a proposed national pensions savings scheme (NPSS) compulsory at the rate of three per cent of salary while allowing individuals the right to opt out.
Smaller companies especially would see their competitiveness damaged and jobs lost, they warned.
CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones said the Turner report offered the "most serious proposals for pensions reform yet" and could be the basis of a "new deal" on retirement income.
Compulsory employer contributions to the NPSS would probably not be a problem for large concerns who already contribute "generously" to occupational schemes.
"But make no mistake, compulsion would be a step too far for smaller firms, who simply cannot afford such a hike in the cost of employment," Sir Digby said.
Companies as well as employees should be given the choice whether or not to contribute.
"Under the plans the only opt out available to some struggling smaller firms may be to shut up shop," he added.
British Chambers of Commerce boss David Frost took a similar line.
The organisation was "not opposed" to the scheme in principle - provided that it was simple and easy to administer - but compulsory employee contributions would lead to lay-offs, salary freezes and cuts in investment at smaller companies.
Faced with compulsion, nearly half the companies in the West Midlands would freeze salaries, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry calculated yesterday.
A poll of the chamber's 4,000 members in Birmingham and Solihull showed that some 28 per cent would seek to claw back contributions from customers while only 14 per cent said they could find the money from existing profits.
"Our members recognise the element of compulsion is probably the most realistic way of filling the gap, but there has to be provision for those companies which will suffer when having to pay a three per cent contribution," policy executive Charlotte Ritchie said.
"Compulsion must not just be another expense on businesses already under pressure from increased employer NI contributions." The chamber supported proposals to raise the state retirement age but stressed that public sector workers who have the right to retire at 60 should fall in line with those in the private sector.
Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce also claimed that a sizeable proportion (35 per cent) of its 800 member companies would freeze salaries in the teeth of compulsion.
"We would prefer to see a state pension scheme which puts the emphasis on private contributions and provides incentives to help small businesses provide pensions for staff," head of policy Annette Fitzgerald said.
"We fear compulsion would hit businesses hard and could have a substantial impact on jobs in the long term."
The Turner report was largely in line with the Institute of Directors own thinking on pension reform, regional IoD chairman John James said.
"The report is the most comprehensive analysis of the UK pension system ever undertaken, but we do not want the Government to accept its recommendations on employer compulsion.
"The burden of pensions on employers is already high enough," Mr James added.
Manufacturers organisation the EEF also backed the proposals but said small and medium- sized companies would need help to meet costs.
The 25,000 member-strong Forum of Private Business said compulsory contributions would add "massively" to labour costs and deter firms from creating jobs.
"This could cripple many small firms already suffering from high taxation and the cost of regulation," chief executive Nick Goulding said.
"Even worse, it could mean more UK jobs being outsourced to places like China.
"Although employers recognise something needs to be done to address the shortfall in pensions, expecting private firms to shoulder the cost will only deter business growth and slow down the economy."