Pensions

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Eligibility to join NHS Pension Scheme FAQs

Answers to questions about joining the NHS pension scheme, covering eligibility for different categories of doctors at different stages of careers including after retirement.

Can I join the NHS Pension Scheme
Will I be automatically admitted to one of the NHS Pension Schemes when I start working in the NHS?
Which NHS Pension Scheme will I join?
Can I join an NHS pension scheme if I am working as a locum in Secondary Care?
Can I join the pension scheme if I am working as a GP locum?
Can I continue to be a member an NHS Pension Scheme even if I no longer work in the NHS?
Can I remain in the NHS Pension Scheme if my employment is transferred to a private provider?
Can I rejoin the pension scheme after retirement?

 

Can I join the NHS Pension Scheme?

Since 1 April 2015 there are two NHS Pension Schemes: once comprising the 1995 and 2008 sections and one for the 2015 Career Average Revalued Earnings Scheme (CARE).

If you retired from the 1995 section without having to join the 2015 scheme or if you have retired from the 1995 section, having transitioned to the 2015 scheme, with a 'final salary' link you will be unable to rejoin any NHS pension scheme. In this context retired means accessed your pension.

If you have already achieved 45 calendar years of membership (for both 1995 and 2008 section and 2015 scheme members) you will not be able to rejoin any NHS Pension Scheme.

Otherwise, you can join/rejoin the scheme if you are between the ages of 16 and 75. Which scheme you will join will depend on whether you are a first time joiner or an eligible rejoiner.

First time joiners are eligible for membership of the 2015 CARE scheme if they are between the ages of 16 and 75 and fall into one of the following categories:

  • Directly employed by the NHS
  • Self employed GP
  • GP Practice employee
  • Medical, dental or ophthalmic practitioner, including trainees
  • Freelance Locum GP
  • Employee working for an approved employer (subject to satisfying the conditions of the direction arrangements – see below )
  • Employee of an Independent Provider holding a standard APMS contract or local authority NHS contract (after 1 April 2014)

 

Will I be automatically admitted to one of the NHS Pension Schemes when I start working in the NHS?

Membership of an NHS pension scheme is automatic if you are directly employed by the NHS (this includes Salaried GPs/Type 2 GPs), or if you are a GP Principal (Type 1) and are eligible to join/rejoin. If you are eligible to join/rejoin but do not wish to you can 'opt out' by completing a form to this effect.

Membership of the scheme is available but not automatic if you are working as a GP locum.  Please see the GP locums FAQ for further information.

Membership of the scheme is available but not automatic if you are working for a non NHS body which has ‘direction’ status.  Please see the Direction Status FAQs for further information.

 

Which NHS Pension Scheme will I join?

If you are a protected member of the 1995 or 2008 sections and are rejoining without having had a break of 5 years or more (and are under the normal pension age of 60 for 1995 section members) you can rejoin your protected section.

If you are not a protected member of the 1995 or 2008 section but are rejoining within 5 years (and are under the normal pension age of 60 for 1995 section members) you are only able to resume membership of the original section of the scheme which you left if you have not passed your transition date. If your transition date has passed or if you have had a break of more than 5 years then you will join the 2015 CARE scheme.

If you were contributing to the 1995 or 2008 sections and took a refund of contributions or transferred your pension rights to another provider you will join the 2015 CARE scheme even if you rejoin within 5 years of leaving.

If you are joining the NHS for the first time and are eligible to join you will join the 2015 CARE scheme.

More information for 1995/2008 section members can be found in our Overview guide. 

 

Can I join an NHS pension scheme if I am working as a locum in Secondary Care?

Yes. If you are working directly for the NHS this work is pensionable if you are eligible to join a scheme. Please see the first question for eligibility criteria. Please note that any work contracted through a third party, such as a locum agency, will not be pensionable in either of the NHS Pension Schemes.

 

Can I join the pension scheme if I am working as a GP locum?

Yes, assuming you are eligible to join. Please see the first question for eligibility criteria. GP locums have been eligible for membership of the pension scheme since 1 April 2001. However, the onus is on you to complete the GP locum forms within the deadline of 10 weeks of completing the work in order to pension those earnings in the scheme.

You are not able to join the NHS Pension Scheme if you have set yourself up as a limited company on an individual basis.

Please refer to the GP locum FAQs.

 

Can I continue to be a member of the Pension Scheme even if I no longer work in the NHS?

If you cease to work in the NHS you will not be entitled to membership of the NHS Pension Schemes. The only exception to this is where your non NHS employer holds direction status, which allows you to continue to contribute to an NHS Pension Scheme whilst working elsewhere. Please also see the first question for eligibility criteria. 

Please refer to the Direction status FAQs for more information.

 

Can I remain in the NHS Pension Scheme if my employment is transferred to a private provider?

If you are subject to a compulsory transfer your employment should be subject to the 'Fair Deal' agreement. From 7 October 2013 this means that you can continue in the NHS Pension Scheme.

More information on the Fair Deal arrangement

 

Can I rejoin the pension scheme after retirement?

If you retire from the 1995 section (with 'final salary' linking for transitional members) you will not be able to rejoin the NHS Pension Scheme in respect of post retirement NHS earnings.

The exceptions are:

  1. If you retired from the 1995 section on the grounds of permanent ill health you may be able to rejoin the scheme subject to the following conditions:

    • If you are in receipt of a tier 1 pension you need to be under age 50 when you rejoin pensionable employment
    • If you are in receipt of a tier 2 pension you need to be under age 49 when you rejoin pensionable employment

  2. If you retried on the grounds of redundancy from a concurrent post please refer to the Redundancy FAQs for further information.

If you retire from the 2008 section or the 2015 CARE scheme you should automatically be enrolled in the scheme provided you have not yet accrued more than 45 years of service and are under the age of 75. You are able to opt out of further scheme membership if you wish.

If you have transitioned to the 2015 CARE scheme and access 1995 section benefits without 'final salary' linking you will be able to continue with membership of the 2015 scheme.