Pensions

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Pensionable service FAQs

This FAQ is primarily for secondary care doctors who were contributing to the 1995 or 2008 section of the NHS pension scheme.  The pensions for GPs in the 1995 or 2008 section is based on Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE). Pensionable service may be relevant only for GP's who also have secondary care service. Please refer to the relevant ’GP Pension Flexibilites’ FAQ for further information.

If you are contributing to the 2015 scheme benefits are calculated with reference to actual pensionable earnings only.

What counts as pensionable service?
What service does not count as pensionable?
What is qualifying service?
What is reckonable or scaled service?
Which service is used to calculate my pension?
What is the maximum pensionable service that can be used to calculate my benefits?
How do I make my medical or clinical director post pensionable?
Is my pensionable service reduced during periods of sickness or maternity leave?
Is my pensionable service reduced if I am on an authorised absence?
Is my pensionable service reduced if I take Industrial Action?
Do added years increase my pensionable service?

 

What counts as pensionable service?

If you are working in secondary care your pension is calculated with reference to your pensionable service and your pensionable pay.
Pensionable service refers to the days where you are working in the NHS and contributing to the NHS pension scheme.

There are two types of pensionable service, qualifying service and scaled or reckonable service.

 

What service does not count as pensionable?

The following service is not pensionable in the NHS pension scheme:

  • Hours, sessions or programmed activities (PAs) in excess of whole-time employment for your job
  • Employment via an Agency
  • Honorary Post (where unpaid will not accrue pensionable service)
  • Self employed doctors (other than GPs and Dental Practitioners)
  • Disallowed days as a result of industrial action
  • Periods of sickness without pensionable pay
  • Periods of unpaid maternity where pension contributions have not been paid.

 

What is qualifying service?

Qualifying service refers to the calendar days that you have contributed to the NHS pension scheme irrespective of whether you have worked whole-time or part-time.  This type of service is used to determine your eligibility for scheme benefits including:

  • the minimum service required to qualify for preserved benefits (2 years)
  • the maximum service limits for members reaching age 60 before 1 April 2008 is 40 years at age 60, then 45 years overall. After 1 April 2008 all members are restricted to 45 years overall, except members with MHO status who remain restricted to 40 years at age 55, then 45 years overall
  • the number of added years that could be purchased (this option was withdrawn from 31 March 2008)
  • 20 years as a mental health officer, enabling doubling of subsequent service to commence
  • the amount of additional service granted (i.e. enhancement) when retiring early on the grounds of ill-health.

Please note that there is no upper service limit in the 2015 scheme.

 

What is reckonable or scaled service?

Reckonable/scaled service refers to service which has been reduced to take account of part-time working. For example if you were to work for 10 years at 50% of whole-time you will have accrued 5 reckonable/scaled years of service.

 

Which service is used to calculate my pension?

Your pension is calculated with reference to reckonable/scaled service.  If you work whole-time throughout your career your qualifying and reckonable/scaled service will be the same.

For the purposes of calculating my pensionable service what constitutes working whole-time?

The maximum number of sessions, programmed activities or hours that can be treated as whole-time is determined by your job:

  • Junior Doctors - 40 hours per week.
  • Speciality Doctors, Associate Specialist or Consultants on the new contracts - 10 programmed activities per week.
  • Consultants on the old contract - 11 sessions per week. 
  • Clinical Assistants - 11 sessions per week. (Please note that if you have one Clinical Assistant post the maximum number of sessions you can work is 9, and therefore you will be treated as part-time.  If you have a separate contract to perform 2 or more additional sessions in a concurrent NHS post then you can be treated as whole-time)

You can pay pension contributions on the maximum number of programmed activities, sessions or hours detailed above.

If you are working for more than the permitted maximum pensionable hours the excess hours are ignored for pension purposes, and you will not pay pension contributions on them.

 

What is the maximum amount of pensionable service that can be used to calculate my benefits?

In both sections of the NHS pension scheme you are restricted to no more than 45 calendar years’ of pensionable service. There is no upper service limit in the 2015 scheme.

Mental health officers (MHOs) are restricted to accruing 40 calendar years’ service at age 55 and no more than 45 calendar years’ service by age 58 at the earliest. 

 

How do I make my medical or clinical director post pensionable?

Whether or not a medical or clinical director role is pensionable depends on the contract and this cannot be made pensionable solely for the purposes of increasing your pension.

If the contract involves extra medical/clinical director PAs or sessions beyond whole-time or maximum part-time, then those extra PAs or sessions will not be pensionable.

If you have a part-time contract, the extra PAs or sessions will be pensionable up to whole-time hours (10 PAs/11 sessions).

If your medical/clinical director work is undertaken within a whole-time contract then it should be pensionable.

Please refer to the FAQ on ’Medical and Clinical Directors’ for further information.

 

Is my pensionable service reduced during periods of sickness absence or maternity leave?

During periods where you are in receipt of pay, whether this is full pay or reduced pay, you will continue to accrue service at the same rate as you were prior to your absence.

During periods where you are not receiving pay no further pensionable service is accrued.  If you are returning from a period of unpaid maternity leave you can choose to pay pension contributions to cover any unpaid periods.  This will ensure that pensionable service accrues during this time. Please refer to our FAQ on ‘Maternity leave’ and ‘Sick Leave’ for further information.

 

Is my pensionable service reduced if I am on an authorised absence?

If you are on an authorised absence it is up to you whether this period is treated as pensionable.  If you have opted to pay pension contributions during your absence then you will continue to accrue service at the same rate as you were prior to your absence.

If you have opted not to pay pension contributions during your absence then your scheme membership will cease when the period of authorised absence starts.

Please refer to our FAQ ‘authorised absence’ for further information.

 

Is my pensionable service reduced if I take Industrial Action?

Assuming you are not paid your employer will notify the relevant pensions’ agency in relation to any absence on account of industrial action and this period will not be treated as pensionable service.

 

Do added years increase my pensionable service?

Yes.  Any added years purchased will be added to your pensionable service when you retire.  If you are working part-time the added years will accrue at a rate proportionate to the part-time hours worked during the period of the contract.