Introduction to the NHS Pension Scheme
When you start working for the NHS you will automatically be included in the NHS Pension Scheme. The scheme is voluntary, so you can choose to opt-out if you wish.
The amount you pay into your pension is dependent on how much you earn and the current contribution rates are between 5% and 14.5%. Your rate is determined on your full-time equivalent pensionable pay.
Your contributions are deducted from your gross pay which means less of your income is taxable. This in effect means that your actual contribution taking into account tax relief is between 4% and 8.7%. Your employer on the other hand (from 1 April 2015) contributes 14.3%.
New NHS Pension Scheme 2015
From 1 April 2015 a new NHS pension scheme came into effect. Members working in the NHS should have received a leaflet in their payslips about the new scheme earlier in the year.
The new pension scheme reflects the changes that were negotiated and fought over between the government and the NHS trade unions back in 2011.
In 2011, union members took strike action over the initial government proposals for changes to public sector pensions. Following further negotiations, the government made significant changes to the proposals and the Proposed Final Agreement (PFA) for the NHS pension scheme was produced.
UNISON’s health service group executive agreed that this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.
Since then, the NHS trade unions sought to ensure that the pension regulations for the new 2015 scheme reflected the wording of the PFA and that no changes that were not negotiated or originally agreed were included.
From 1 April 2015 members of the 1995 or 2008 sections of the NHS pension scheme without ‘full’ or ‘tapered protection’ moved to the new 2015 pension scheme [see Protection section below].
Some of the main features of the new scheme are:
- It is a type of defined benefit scheme which provides pension benefits based on a fixed formula.
- It is a Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE) scheme, rather than a final salary scheme where benefits are built up on the value of your pensionable earnings each year during your NHS career.
- The pension build up rate is 1/54th of pensionable earnings in each year with no limit on the amount of pensionable membership which can be built up.
- This 1/54th fraction is better than the current 1995 and 2008 Sections.
- Each year’s pension earned will increase every year in value by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1.5 % per year.
- The age at which benefits can be claimed without reduction for early payment (normal pension age (NPA)) is the same age as your State Pension Age (but cannot be lower than 65).
- Pension benefits already built up in the 1995 and 2008 sections will be retained and calculated by reference to your final pay at retirement. You will still need to retire from NHS employment in order to access your 1995 or 2008 section benefits. You will not be able to access your 2015 benefits without reduction for early payment until your normal pension age for the 2015 pension scheme.
UNISON has produced a PowerPoint presentation on the new scheme (see Resources below).
Protection is the arrangement under which certain members of the NHS Pension scheme will remain in their current section of the NHS Pension Scheme indefinitely or will move to the new scheme at a later date, depending on the form of protection they have.
If you were within 10 years of your NHS Pension Scheme Normal Pension Age – the age at which they can retire without a reduction in pension benefits – as at the 1 April 2012 you remain in the 1995 or 2008 Section until you retire or otherwise leave the scheme. For most 1995 Section members this means 50 or over (or 45 for Special Class and MHO members) and 55 for 2008 Section members.
If you were more than 10 years but less than 13 years and 5 months from your Normal Pension Age as at 1 April 2012 you are entitled to Tapered Protection’. This means you will move to the new 2015 scheme at a date later than 1 April 2015 but will ultimately have to move by no later than the 1 April 2022.
If you are a member of the 1995 or 2008 Section and were, at 1 April 2012, more than 13 years and 5 months away from your Normal Pension Age you will move to the new 2015 Scheme on 1 April 2015.
Changes to the NHS Pension Scheme that took place on 1 April 2015 have potential implications for anyone involved in a salary sacrifice scheme. If you are currently participating in a salary sacrifice scheme and are now in the new NHS Pension Scheme 2015 you should consider whether this is still in your best overall financial interest. Read UNISON’s briefing ‘Salary sacrifice arrangements and your NHS pension: advice for UNISON members’ (see Resources below) for more information.
How the UNISON pensions unit can help you
UNISON has a pensions unit dedicated to dealing with issues concerning our member’s pension schemes and rights. The pensions unit has two full-time officers plus secretarial support.
The unit will always do what it can to accommodate branch/regional requests for pension briefings and pension surgeries subject to resource constraints.
Pensions casework can also be sent to the pensions unit via the usual case protocols.
Alan Fox leads on NHS pensions and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7121 5514.
Total Rewards Statements
All NHS staff are now entitled to a Total Reward Statement (TRS) each year. This will include an Annual Benefit Statement (ABS) for pension scheme members.
Your TRS will provide personalised information about the value of your employment package and includes details of your remuneration and benefits provided locally by your employer.
Your ABS will show the current value of your pension, plus your predicted pension at your Normal Pension Age if you are remaining in the 1995 Section.
You can view your statement online at www.totalrewardstatements.nhs.uk. You will need to register through the site and request an activation code to be able to view your personal statement.
State pension age calculator
The State Pension Age will increase to 66 from October 2020, 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2046.
You can check your State Pension Age and Normal Pension Age in the 2015 NHS Pension Scheme by going to www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension.
- The NHS Pension Scheme is a voluntary pension scheme available to all NHS employees. Benefits are paid in addition to the basic state pension.
- The NHS Pension Scheme is for all full-time and part-time NHS employees.<
- Eligible employees are automatically included but they can opt-out.
- The scheme particulars are defined by statute and benefits are paid directly from contributions and taxes.