Pensions

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Authorised absenses FAQs

These FAQs applies to doctors working in Secondary Care.

What is a period of authorised absence or career break?
How do I apply for a period of authorised absence?
Can I continue contributing to the NHS Pension Scheme during a period of authorised absence?
What is the maximum period of authorised absence which can be treated as pensionable?
Does my employer pay contributions during my absence?
What happens if my period of authorised absence is for more than six months?
Can my employer refuse to pay their share of the contributions?
What is the employer contribution rate?
Can I repay the contributions once I return to pensionable NHS employment?
What happens if I do not pay pension contributions during the period of authorised absence?
What happens if I pay pension contributions during the period of authorised absence?
How are the pension contributions calculated during the period of authorised leave?
How is my pensionable salary calculated if I am due an increment during a period of pensionable authorised absence?
If I elect not to pay contributions during my period of authorised absence can I opt in during my period of absence?
If I elect to pay contributions during my period of authorised absence and then change my mind can I opt out during my period of absence?
What if I die during a period of authorised leave?
I am buying added years. Is this affected by my authorised leave?
I am buying additional pension. Is this affected by my authorised leave?
I am a doctor with MHO status. How does a period of authorised leave affect my service accrual?

What is a period of authorised absence or career break?

This is a period where your employer consents for you to take unpaid absence from work for an agreed period where the contract of employment is retained.

 

How do I apply for a period of authorised absence?

You need to apply directly to your employer who will make the decision whether to accept your application for a period of authorised absence.

 

Can I continue contributing to the NHS Pension Scheme during a period of authorised absence?

Yes, for a limited period of time (see question below). If your employer has approved your period of authorised absence then it is up to you whether you pay pension contributions during the absence or not.

 

What is the maximum period of authorised absence which can be treated as pensionable?

Providing you have paid contributions continuously during the first six months of your absence you can continue to pension a further period of up to 18 months. This means that you can pension a period of authorised absence for a total of two years.

 

Does my employer pay contributions during my absence?

If you decide to treat the absence as pensionable then during the first six months of the absence you will continue to pay your share of the pension contributions, in accordance with your contribution tier, and your employer is obliged to pay the employer’s share of the contributions.

 

What happens if my period of authorised absence is for more than six months?

After six months you are responsible for meeting the full cost of the pension contributions payable both by the employee and the employer. You will therefore need to pay your own regular tiered contribution plus the employer’s contribution.

 

Can my employer refuse to pay their share of the contributions?

No. Once they have agreed to your period of authorised absence it is up to you whether the period is to be treated as pensionable or not. If you decide to make this period pensionable then they are obliged to pay contributions during the first six months.

 

What is the employer contribution rate?

If you are working in England or Wales the employer contribution is 14.38% of pensionable earnings, in Scotland it is 14.9% of pensionable earnings and in Northern Ireland it is 16.3% of pensionable earnings.

 

Can I repay the contributions once I return to pensionable NHS employment?

No. The pension contributions should be paid every month to your employer.

You will need to confirm arrangements for the collection of the contributions with your employer before your period of absence.

 

What happens if I do not pay pension contributions during the period of authorised absence?

This period will be treated as a break in pensionable service and will be entirely ignored during any assessment of your pensionable service and pensionable salary.

 

What happens if I pay pension contributions during the period of authorised absence?

Your service will accrue at the same rate as applied immediately before the break. If you were whole-time this will be on a whole-time basis and if you were part-time this will be on a part-time basis. The period will be treated as pensionable for the purposes of assessing your pensionable service and pensionable salary.

 

How are the pension contributions calculated during the period of authorised leave?

Employee and employer pension contributions are based on your pensionable pay in the 365 days immediately prior to the period of authorised absence.

 

How is my pensionable salary calculated if I am due an increment during a period of pensionable authorised absence?

The increment will be applied when you return to work. However should you retire immediately after returning from a pensionable authorised absence your pensionable pay will not include the increment as you will not have been in receipt of the increased pay and contributions during your absence would have been based on your earnings immediately before your break.

 

If I elect not to pay contributions during my period of authorised absence can I opt in during my period of absence?

No. You cannot opt into the scheme during absence from work. You would not be able to opt back into the pension scheme until you return to pensionable NHS employment.

 

If I elect to pay contributions during my period of authorised absence and then change my mind can I opt out during my period of absence?

Yes. You can opt out of the scheme at any time. You will not be able to opt back into the pension scheme until you return to pensionable NHS employment.

 

What if I die during a period of authorised leave?

If you have elected for the period to be treated as pensionable and you die during your absence then death in service benefits will apply. Please see the Death in Service FAQs for confirmation of the benefits payable.

If the period is non-pensionable and you die during your absence you will be treated as a deferred member of the scheme. Please see the Death after leaving the NHS FAQs for confirmation of the benefits payable.

 

I am buying added years. Is this affected by my authorised leave?

If you have elected for the period to be treated as pensionable you will need to continue to contribute to your added years unless you elect to terminate your contract. Your added years will continue to accrue at the same rate as applied immediately before the period of authorised absence.

If you elect to terminate your added years contract you will not be able to start a new contract at a later date.

If you have elected for the period to be treated as non- pensionable then you will not accrue added years during the period of the absence. If you return to pensionable NHS employment within 365 days you will be able to continue with your added years contract, which will have been reduced to reflect the fact that contributions have not been paid during your absence. If you return to pensionable NHS employment 365 days or more after having last contributed to the added years contract, it will be deemed to have terminated the day before your authorised leave commenced and you will not be able to start another added years contract.

 

I am buying additional pension. Is this affected by my authorised leave?

If you have elected for the period to be treated as pensionable you will need to continue to contribute to your additional pension contract unless you elect to terminate your contract. Your additional pension will continue to accrue at the same rate as applied immediately before the period of authorised absence.

If you elect to terminate your additional pension you may be able to start a new contract at a later date.

If you have elected for the period to be treated as non- pensionable then you will not accrue additional pension during the period of the absence. If you return to pensionable NHS employment within 365 days you will be able to continue with your additional pension contract, which will have been reduced to reflect the fact that contributions have not been paid during the absence. If you return to pensionable NHS employment 365 days or more after having last contributed to your additional pension contract, it will be deemed to have terminated the day before your authorised leave commenced.

 

I am a doctor with MHO status. How does a period of authorised leave affect my service accrual?

If you are on a period of authorised leave and have elected to pay the contributions to cover that period, the service accrued will be recorded as MHO type service, and will count towards your qualification for MHO benefits.

If you have more than 20 calendar years in an MHO type job and your service is subject to doubling, this doubling will continue during any period of authorised leave where you have agreed to pay pension contributions.

If the period is being treated as non-pensionable, or the career break lasts for more than two years, you will need to rejoin the scheme within 5 years of having left in order to continue to be entitled to MHO status.

Please see the MHO status FAQs for further information on the rules of MHO staus.