We have identified key areas relating to GP pensions that we are working on.
The Annual Allowance
The BMA has been lobbying to get changes introduced to the AA as we see its impact as a major deterrent to recruitment, retention and general workforce planning. We succeeded in getting the Scottish Public Pensions Agency to agree to permit the use of ‘scheme pays’ by those who were subject to the Tapered Annual Allowance. Recently the NHS Business Services Authority (England and Wales) also agreed to this and additionally removed the need to have a charge of over £2,000 before qualifying. We continue to pursue the matter with Northern Ireland who are likely to follow suit.
GPs have expressed concerns about the delays in receiving AA statements which are only provided once final certified income details are received by the NHS. Delays in England resulting from CAPITA administration problems exacerbate this increasing the likelihood of some GPs receiving unexpected tax bills, possible fines and the inability to use scheme pays, for which there is an application deadline. We have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock to express our concern about this.
We are looking for greater flexibility in the workings of the pension schemes to enable members to better plan around the AA without simply having to opt in and out of scheme membership. The AA is also an issue on which we are working alongside other health sector unions as those most affected are members of public sector defined benefit schemes.
The Scheme Valuation
The current contribution structure ends on 31 March 2019 and the governance groups set up to review and discuss the prospective structure from April 2019 to March 2023 have been meeting. At present non-GPs (known by the scheme as ‘officers) have their contributions based on Whole-Time Equivalent Earnings. For GPs in the 1995 and 2008 sections contributions are based on actual earnings whilst GPs in the 2015 Career Average Revalued Earnings scheme have contributions based on ‘annualised’ earnings if they have not worked for a full scheme year.
We are working to ensure that the prospective employee contribution rates do not increase and preferably are reduced for our members who currently contribute at the highest tiers.
The Employer Contributions rates are currently 14.38 % (in England and Wales and inclusive of the 0.08% administrative charge), 14.9% in Scotland and 16.3% in Northern Ireland. It is likely that these will increase from 2019 onwards.
GP Locum Death in Service benefits
We have been pursuing a case (as well as several test cases) through the NHSBSA’s Internal Disputes procedures and have one currently with the Pensions Ombudsman. We are challenging the view that locums are only afforded Death in Service benefits if they die on a day they are actually due to undertake pensionable work and during hours that they are due to work (other life assurance benefits apply outside of this time).
It is our view that Death in Service benefits should be available if death occurs during a ‘period of engagement’ rather than on specific work days. For example, if a locum were to engage with a practice to work from 1 January to 31 March but to only work 3 days each week, the in service benefits should be provided throughout that period regardless of whether death occurs on an actual work day.
Annualising of GP contributions
GPs in the 2015 Career Average Revalued Earnings scheme are subject to basing their contribution tier on their annualised earnings if they have not worked a full scheme year (1 April to 31 March). NHSBSA have applied the rules in a fashion not consistent with the regulations themselves resulting in some GPs being required to pay contributions at a higher rate than they should have. Recently NHSBSA have accepted that the previous ‘annualise then aggregate’ method to arrive at total earnings and thus the contribution tier has been flawed and they have agreed to move to an ‘aggregate then annualise’ method which does not distinguish between different types of pensionable GP role.
Whilst the regulations in all the nations are the same with regard to ‘annualising’ it is not being consistently applied across the nations. We will not be pressing for consistency on a rule with which we disagree and which results in some members paying higher contribution rates for no additional pension benefit, until and unless the other nations begin to apply the rules.
We continue to believe that despite the change in methodology the rule is unfair and discriminates against some protected characteristic groups. For example, GP locums who take maternity leave or those who undertake a reduced work commitment due to ill health are more likely to be detrimentally affected by being made to pay contributions at a higher rate than their earnings would warrant. We are currently looking for test cases to be able to challenge annualising legally.
There are significant issues with the processing of GP pension contributions leading to cases of incorrect or incomplete records. Practices have also previously reported a series of issues with the processing of pension payments, such as no receipts received, pension contributions being taken for doctors that have long since left the practice, GP trainees not being added to the scheme in a timely manner and superannuation certificates not being shared.
NHS England is currently undertaking work to address the various issues that are ongoing in this area and GPC will be monitoring this area very closely.
If you are concerned about you pension, we have made available template Subject access request (SAR) forms available on our website for individual GPs to send to NHS Pensions, to get further information on GP individual pension contributions.
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