As well as taking part in talks (the BMA is represented on the review group looking at the impact of working longer, for example) we’ve just embarked on a new lobbying push. Last month saw publication of the Public Service Pensions Bill — a complex and far-reaching piece of legislation, which would grant the Government sweeping new powers, potentially allowing it to subject public sector workers’ pensions to yet more 'reform' in future.
To broadly sum up the impact on doctors, if the Bill becomes an Act, the disparities that hit you the hardest will pass into statute. We’ve just published an in-depth analysis of public sector pension reform, which looks at those disparities in forensic detail.
It shows how there are three forms of unfairness in the Government’s approach:
Lack of fairness in the overall approach to public sector pension reform such as the fact that the government has ignored the huge changes that were agreed in 2008 — in particular to NHS pensions, and seems to have forgotten that it is already generating £250 billion worth of savings by 2060 by changing the indexation method from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index
Lack of fairness across public sector schemes, with many NHS staff paying a higher proportion of their pension benefits than workers elsewhere in the public sector. This hits doctors particularly hard, with the highest earners paying almost twice as much as civil servants
Lack of fairness within the NHS pension scheme, such as the fact that higher paid NHS staff will get much less from the scheme per pound invested than lower paid workers once there is a move to a career average revalued earnings scheme in 2015 — if the steep contribution tiers are maintained.
So our task now is to get those messages across to MPs, and we can’t do that without you. If you’re a BMA member (and not one of the thousand who has already done so) please log in to the website and use our new lobbying tool to contact your MP. It literally takes seconds. Whatever your views on other forms of action, I’m sure you’ll agree that we shouldn’t let this unfairness go unchallenged in Parliament.
Read more about the three forms of unfairness identified by the BMA.
Andy Blake is head of pensions at the BMA
I agree with all of the above and have contacted my MP; I urge others to do the same. However, I think that the BMA should also use legal channels to address another area of unfairness - the blatant age disrimination in the new NHS pension arrangements. I have recently obtained a copy of the government's equality assessment of these proposals. One section caught my eye, concerning the approximate 10 years transition protection which older members will receive (so that anyone over 50 will have no change in their current pension arrangements). I quote from this document:â€œThe policy of protecting older members is directly age discriminatory but may be objectively justified on the grounds that those nearing retirement are least able to change their retirement plans to accommodate changes in pension provision. There is further justification in that advantages gained by this older group are offset by less generous aspects of the 1995 section package...â€
So the government is shamefacingly admitting that not extending this transition protection to younger members is against the Equality Act 2010, but using an â€œobjective justificationâ€ which I don't believe holds water. Older members will have already built up more service in the old pension scheme by 2015 than younger members and so are in reality financially better prepared for retirement, not worse. Also, how much more can a 46 year old (with no protection) do than a 50 year old (with full protection) to prepare for retirement, especially as the much higher contributions mean that there is no spare cash to plough into a private pension? You also need to start saving much earlier in life than 46. In terms of the second justification given, younger members of the 1995 section are equally at a disadvantage.
I understand from BMA legal advisors that it is unlikely that any challenge would be successful. However, what I say is that this means that there is a chance, albeit slim, of getting the same terms â€“ 10 years transition protection â€“ for younger members, so that all members can stay in the current scheme for another decade.
My message to the BMA â€“ stand up for younger members â€“ take the Government to court over this blatant age discrimination!
I agree with the above and have contacted my MP; I urge others to do the same. But I would like to highlight another area of unfairness - blatant age discrimination in the new pension arrangements. I have recently obtained a copy of the government's equality assessment of the new NHS pension arrangements. One section caught my eye, concerning the approximate 10 years transition protection which older members will receive (so that anyone over 50 will have no change in their current pension arrangements). I quote from this document:â€œThe policy of protecting older members is directly age discriminatory but may be objectively justified on the grounds that those nearing retirement are least able to change their retirement plans to accommodate changes in pension provision. There is further justification in that advantages gained by this older group are offset by less generous aspects of the 1995 section package...â€
I see no mention anywhere of those of us who are not entitled to ANY NHS pension at all just because Assura have taken over. I work at an asylum seeker health centre as a sessional GP (one session a week only thank goodness now) and now Assura have taken over from the PCT, I am not entitled to an NHS pension!! (unlike the nursing and admin staff) where is the fairness in that?! I would gladly pay greater contributions - I would just like the pension I had before! Just because I am now part of the new privatised NHS, I am still working for the NHS so why am I not entitled to a pension? And I see no mention of this anywhere on the BMA website and the pensions dept just tell me 'that is how it is' !!!! Have contacted my MP, not sure if it will achieve anything though...I am in a far better position than most of my patients....