Authorised absences and your pension

Authorised absence is where you take unpaid leave from work for an agreed period – find out how this effects your pension pot, how long you can take and under what circumstances.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Piggybank illustration

There are a number of reasons why you may need to take longer bouts of absence from work.

If you need to take authorised absence, you should apply directly to your employer who will make the decision whether to accept your application.

 

Authorised absence and pension contributions

  • You can contribute to the NHS pension scheme for up to two years, providing you pay contributions continuously for the first six months. 
  • It is up to you whether you pay pension contributions during the absence or not - this decision is made before as you cannot opt in later.
  • You can opt out at any time.
  • Your contributions are paid to your employer every month.
  • Your employer will also pay their share of contributions, but only for the first six months. 
  • Your employer cannot refuse to pay their contributions.
  • Contributions are based on your pensionable pay in the 365 days prior to the absence.
  • If you choose to pay contributions and you are buying added years, you will need to continue to pay towards your added years.

 

The effect on your pensionable service

If you choose not to pay contributions it will count as a break in pensionable service and will be entirely ignored during any assessment of your pensionable service and pensionable salary.

If you choose to pay contributions, 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.

The above is applicable to MHO (mental health officer) status too including to doubling.

However, 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 five years of having left in order to continue to be entitled to MHO status.

If you have an increment due:

  • it will be applied when you return to work
  • if you retire straight after the absence, your pensionable pay will not include the increment.  

 

If you die during a period of authorised leave

If you have chosen for the period to be treated as pensionable and you die then death in service benefits will apply. 

If you chose not to pay pension contributions during your absence and you die you will be treated as a deferred member of the scheme.

Read our guidance on death after leaving the NHS

 

If you have added years or extra pension purchase

If you have chosen for the period to be treated as pensionable you will need to continue to contribute to your additional pension contract or added years unless you terminate your contract.

Your additional pension or 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 additional pension or added years 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 or 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 additional pension or added years contract. This 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 or added years contract, it will be deemed to have terminated the day before your authorised leave commenced.