Pensions

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Added years FAQ

What are Added Years?

An added years contract is a service based benefit available only in the 1995 section of the scheme. It allows members who could not achieve the maximum scheme membership at their normal pension age to purchase additional membership. This additional membership provides you with additional index-linked pension and tax-free lump sum.

 

Can I purchase added years?

The facility to purchase full-cost added years was withdrawn on 31 March 2008. However, the facility to purchase added years at half-cost is still available.

 

What payment options were available?

An added years contract could be purchased by lump sum or by regular instalment. 
Half-cost added years would normally be purchased by regular instalment.

 

How much do added years cost?

The cost is determined by the Government Actuary Department (GAD) and is based on the following factors:

  • your age at the start of the contract (your next birthday)
  • the end date for the contract (your 55th 60th or 65th birthday)
  • the number of added years you are purchasing.

If you have had a refund of service you may be able to purchase added years at ‘half-cost’. 
The actuarial factors determining the cost to purchase one added year are detailed in Schedule 1 of the NHS pension scheme regulations

 

Is there a limit on the additional contributions I can pay towards purchasing added years?

The maximum amount of additional contributions you can pay towards purchasing added years is 9% of your pensionable pay.

 

Is there a limit on the number of added years I can purchase?

Yes.  Your total membership in the scheme is restricted to 40 calendar years at age 60 (age 55 for MHO members) and 45 years overall. The number of added years you can purchase depends on the amount of membership you will accrue at the normal pension age of 60 (55 for MHOs), but is restricted by the 9% contributions limit.

 

Are half-cost added years available to everyone?

Half-cost added years are available if you   took a refund of contributions in respect of any service prior to 6 April 1978, or at any time in respect of contributions made as a self-employed GP.  This facility allows you to buy back these periods at half the normal cost.

 

How can I check if I ever received a refund of contributions?

The relevant pensions agency will be able to advise if you ever received a refund. 

 

I began working in the NHS in one nation before moving to work in the NHS in a different nation and I had a refund of the contributions I paid for a period of service before April 1978.  Can I purchase this at half cost?

Yes. You will need to get details of the service refunded and send the information to your current pensions administrator.

 

How do I make a purchase of half-cost added years?

You will need to contact your employer or the relevant pensions agency for a quotation and the required form.

 

What is the minimum length of my added years contract?

The added years contract must run for a minimum of two years.

 

When must an added years contract begin and end?

An added years contract must start on your birthday and end at age 55, 60 or 65.

 

I have Mental Health Officer (MHO) status. Can I purchase added years to age 55?

Yes. If you have MHO status can choose to end your contract at age 55, 60 or 65 subject to the maximum service limits allowed.

 

How will purchasing added years increase my pension benefits?

Purchasing added years will increase your pension, lump sum and dependant benefits as follows:

  • If you are a secondary care doctor, each added year provides an extra 1/80th of final pensionable pay at retirement. 
  • If you are a GP your average annual dynamised earnings during the period of the purchase will be multiplied by the amount of years bought.  This amount is then credited to your total dynamised career earnings. Your total career earnings figure is then multiplied by 1.4 % to calculate the pension.

In both cases a lump sum will also be payable equivalent to three times the added years pension.

 

Can the cost of added years change during the contract?

The percentage contribution is fixed at the outset. This cannot be altered and will not be affected by any scheme contribution increases.

 

Is tax relief available on my added years contributions?

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) allow tax relief on pension contributions up to 100% of relevant UK earnings for the tax year.  Your added years contributions will therefore benefit from tax relief.

Please note that breaching the Annual Allowance or Lifetime Allowance may result in a tax charge.  Please refer to our FAQs on these topics for further information.

 

Can I pay towards my added years by a one-off lump sum?

This option was only available for members who elected to purchase added years within 12 months of first joining or rejoining the NHS pension scheme.

 

Does working part-time affect my added years contract?

If you are a secondary care doctor an added years contract assumes that you will be working whole-time without interruption for the duration of the contact.  Any part-time work undertaken during the contract period reduces the amount of added years purchased. For example, if you bought ten added years and throughout the contract period you were working half-time you would have paid for and be credited with five added years.

If you are a primary care doctor the benefit of an added years contract is based on your pensionable earnings during the contract period.   Part-time work for GPs will usually result in less income earned and as a result you will be paying contributions towards the contract on less income and will subsequently receive less benefit from the contract than had your earnings been higher.

 

Can I stop paying towards my added years contract?

It is possible to request a cancellation of an added years contract by contacting the relevant pensions agency. This can now be done without having to satisfy the pensions agency of financial hardship. You are strongly advised to seek Independent Financial Advice when considering cancelling an added years contract as you will not be able to restart the contract once it has been cancelled. Furthermore your benefits will not be as great as you originally anticipated as you will only have completed and been credited with a proportion of your added years purchase.

It is not possible to receive a refund of added years contributions paid.  You will receive a portion of the added years you contracted to buy. Any cancellation is only prospective.

 

What happens to my added years if I leave the NHS or opt out of the scheme?

The effect on your added years contract will depend on the duration of the break. If you rejoin the scheme within 365 days of leaving or opting out of the scheme, you will be able to restart your added years contract. If you rejoin the scheme after 365 days or more of leaving, you will not be able to resume your added years contract and, upon retirement, you will be credited with the additional service you paid for up to the date of leaving.

 

What happens if I have a period of maternity leave?

Contributions for added years during both paid and unpaid maternity leave are payable on your salary immediately prior to your maternity leave.  If you choose not to pay pension contributions on your unpaid maternity leave this period will be treated as a break in pensionable service and will reduce the amount of added years you are purchasing. 

If your break in pensionable service is for 12 months or more you will not be able to resume your original added years contract.

 

What happens if I have a period of sick leave?

Contributions for added years during a period of paid sick leave are payable based on your salary immediately prior to your sick leave.

 

What if I have a period of unpaid sick leave?

Along with contributions for the main pension scheme, your added years contributions will stop. Membership throughout an unpaid period will not count for pension purposes.

If your unpaid absence is for 12 months or more you will not be able to resume your original added years contract.

 

What if I have a period of authorised absence?

If you choose to pension the period of authorised absence then you will continue to pay towards your added years.

If you choose not to pension your period of unauthorised absence and your unpaid absence is for 12 months or more you will not be able to resume your original added years contract.

 

I have more than one NHS employment. Do I need to pay added years contributions in respect of all of my pensionable employment?

Yes.  Added years contributions must be paid in respect of all of your pensionable employment.

 

What if I change my NHS employment during the term of the added years contract?

You will need to let your new employer know that you have an added years contract and provide them with a copy of the election form you signed when you started the contract.

If you do not have this available, your new employer should be able to verify the contract with the relevant pensions agency and begin deducting the required contributions from your pay.

 

What if I move between England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland during the term of my added years contract?

You will need to let your new employer know that you have an added years contract and provide them with a copy of the election form you signed when you started the contract. 

If you do not have this available, your new employer should be able to verify the contact with the relevant pensions agency and begin deducting the required contributions from your pay.

If the move is permanent, you may also wish to consider transferring your accrued pension membership to the relevant nation.

 

Can I purchase Additional Pension (AP) in addition to buying added years?

Yes. You can elect to purchase additional pension even if you have already purchased added years or are currently contributing to an added years contract up to the maximum permitted.  

Please refer our FAQ on 'Additional pension purchase' for further information on this facility.

 

What if I retire on ill health grounds during the term of my added years contract?

If contributions have been made for less than one year they will be refunded.

If you retire on health grounds prior to age 60 your contract will be paid in full, at no further cost and you will be credited will all the added years you elected to purchase.  Please note that if you are a secondary care doctor and you worked less than whole-time during any part of the contract then this will be reflected in the amount of added years credited to you on ill health retirement.

If you retire on health grounds after age 60, and your contract was due to end at age 65, you will not be credited with the full purchase.  You will be credited with that portion of the contract completed at the date of retirement and this will be actuarially reduced to reflect its early payment.

 

What if I die during the term of the added years contract?

If contributions have been made for less than one year they will be refunded.

If you die before age 60 and you are contributing towards an added years contract the contract will be paid in full and added to the benefits payable to any dependants.  This will be based on the pension that would have been paid had you retired on health grounds as at the date of death.

If you die after age 60, and your contract was due to end at age 65, you will not be credited with the full purchase.  Your dependants benefits will be credited with that portion of the contact completed at the date of death and this will be actuarially reduced to reflect its early payment.

 

What if I am made redundant during the term of the added years contract?

If you are over the minimum pension age and choose to claim your pension benefits under the redundancy arrangements, you will be credited with the proportion of added years you have paid for.  An actuarial reduction will apply as the benefits will be paid earlier than the intended contract end date. This is the case even if you have used your redundancy payment to meet the cost of the unreduced pension (for those under age 60).

If you choose not to claim your pension benefits or you are below the minimum retirement age, you will be credited with the proportion of the added years purchase completed at your leaving date.  Please note that you will only be able to restart your added years contract if you rejoin the scheme within 12 months of leaving.

 

What if I take voluntary early retirement before my added years contract end date?

If you claim your pension benefits before your added years contract end date, you will be credited with that portion of the contract completed at the date of retirement and this will be actuarially reduced to reflect its early payment.

 

Can buying added years affect my Annual Allowance?

The amount of added years purchased will be taken into account when calculating the growth in the pension benefits during the Pension Input Period (PIP).  For example, if you are a full time secondary care doctor with a contract to buy 5 added years, which began on your 50th birthday  and is due to be completed on your 60thbirthday, you will accrue an extra half a year of service in each year during the term of the added years contract.

This additional membership needs to be added to your standard membership when calculating your pension growth.

For more information on pension growth please refer to our FAQ on ‘Annual Allowance’.

 

What happens if my employer forgets to deduct my added years pension contributions?

You will be required to pay the pension contributions owing.  If you do not wish to do this the contract will terminate at the date contributions were last paid. 

You should be able to agree a reasonable time scale to pay the arrears and the BMA Pensions Department can assist you in this respect.

 

If my employer forgets to deduct my added years pension contributions and I am required to pay arrears will this impact on my pension growth for the purposes of the annual allowance?

No.  Your added years growth should still be averaged over the length of the intended added years contract. 

 

Can buying added years affect my Lifetime Allowance?

Purchasing added years may result in an increase to your pension benefits and subsequently to the capital value which will be tested against the Lifetime Allowance when you retire.

For more information, please refer to our FAQ on ‘Lifetime Allowance’.

 

Can buying added years affect my Enhanced protection?

Yes.  If you have enhanced protection your benefits are subject to a relevant benefit accrual test at retirement. This tests the growth in your pension benefits between 6 April 2006 and your retirement date.

Purchasing added years may result in the capital value of the pension increasing above the HMRC limits and therefore result in the loss of the relevant protection.

For further information, please refer to our FAQ on ‘Lifetime Allowance’.

 

Can buying added years affect my Fixed protection?

Yes.  If you have fixed protection your benefits are subject to an annual benefit accrual test. This tests the growth in your pension benefits each tax year.

Purchasing added years may result in the capital value of the pension increasing above the HMRC limits and therefore result in the loss of the relevant protection.

For further information, please refer to our FAQ on ‘Lifetime Allowance’.

 

What happens to my added years if I join the 2015 scheme?

You will continue to pay towards your added years, unless you chose to opt out of the pension scheme or to terminate the added years contract separately. The benefits from these contributions remain linked to existing 1995 section rules and remain payable in full at the contractual end date. You will have the option to draw these benefits independently of the main protected 1995 section benefits plus your 2015 section benefits.

 

I chose to move to the 2008 section of the NHS pension scheme as part of the NHS Choice exercise. How are my added years affected?

As your added years contract cannot continue in the 2008 section you will have been credited with the proportion of the purchase completed at the date of the transfer.

 

Can I continue to work beyond the contractual end date of my added years contract?

Yes.  Contributions towards your added years contract should cease at the contractual end date, but you can remain in pensionable employment until 45 calendar years’ of service is achieved. Once you have reached 45 calendar years’ of service you must cease contributing to the scheme.  If you have MHO status and reach 45 calendar years’ of service before age 60 you must continue to contribute to the scheme until you reach age 60 unless you opt out or retire.

 

I have been granted retrospective MHO status. Will this affect the amount of added years I am purchasing?

Having been granted retrospective MHO status, you should contact the relevant pensions agency to ensure that as a result of doubling you will not exceed scheme service limits.