Significant changes have taken place in the NHS pension scheme from 1 April 2023 which have enabled 1995 section members to resume pensionable service after retirement and to access pension benefits without having to have a break in service. These changes apply to members in England, Wales and Scotland but do not yet apply to members in Northern Ireland for whom many of the original restrictions remain in place.
Under current scheme rules if you are thinking of retiring and claiming your pension benefits but would like to keep working in the NHS, you can do so but will usually need to take a break from your pensionable employment unless you are considering partial retirement/draw down where employment can continue uninterrupted further to fulfilling certain conditions. Retire and return retirement requires a break in employment.
Without a break in employment your pension will be suspended until you take the required break and not paid back in arrears.
You will need to resign from all your NHS posts in order to retire and claim your pension. An exception to this is redundancy from one post whilst having an ongoing pensionable role in another job.
Changes introduced on 1 April 2023 in England, Wales and Scotland mean that members accessing 1995 section benefits can start/resume NHS pensionable employment in the 2015 scheme after retirement (even following final salary linked benefits becoming payable) and the 16 hour rule is no longer applicable. So long as a break in employment of one day takes place there is no further restriction on hours worked in the first calendar month after retirement or beyond. This change has yet to be consulted on in Northern Ireland.
Partial retirement is to be introduced for 1995 section members in England, Wales and Scotland from 1 October 2023. Partial retirement will enable members over their minimum pension age to access between 20 and 100% of their pension without the need for a break in service so long as they have a reduction in pensionable pay/commitment of 10% or more. Northern Ireland has yet to consult on these 1995 section changes.
There is additional guidance which may apply to members working in Northern Ireland after 1 April 2024 signposted at the end of this document.
Members in England and Wales can refer to the guidance provided by NHSBSA on the ability for all those under age 75 to resume NHS pensionable service following retirement found here:
During the COVID pandemic, certain NHS pension scheme rules relating to the return to work requirements were suspended. This includes the requirement to work no more than 16 hours during the first calendar month after the 24 hour break, if claiming 1995 section benefits. This rule has been removed entirely with effect from 1 April 2023 in England, Wales and Scotland. Those holding concurrent roles are now required to retire from all posts held for 24 hours and they can then resume NHS pensionable employment without affecting their pension regardless of the hours worked. The exception to this is where retirement is on the grounds of redundancy and concurrent roles are held where you can take benefits from the redundant post only. Northern Ireland has suspended the 16 hour rule until 31 March 2024 but not yet abolished it.
Until the 16 hour rule is fully abolished in Northern Ireland, from April 2024, 1995 section members with concurrent roles who wish to retire from one role only can continue to work in the remaining post(s) during the first calendar month, after the 24 hour break, providing they work for no more than 16 hours a week in total. After one calendar month the number of hours is no longer restricted.
Taking the required break to access your NHS pension on retire and return or full (not draw down/partial) retirement.
You must terminate your NHS employment in accordance with your employment contract or partnership agreement and you must not work in a pensionable NHS employment during the first 24 hours of your retirement.
- From 1 April 2023 in England, Wales and Scotland if you return to work after a break of 24 hours there are no further restrictions. In Northern Ireland this is also the case until 31 March 2024 when the 16 hour rule may be reinstated.
- You must terminate your NHS employment in accordance with your employment contract or partnership agreement and you must not work in the NHS during the first 24 hours of your retirement.
- You can return to work in a pensionable employment after a break of 24 hours and there is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.
Your benefits will not be paid until you take the required break.
The pension which is forfeited during the period of suspension is not paid as arrears once the pension is reinstated.
- Pensionable employment is extended by the period of untaken leave for which payment in lieu is made.
- The date your NHS employment contract is terminated may be different from the last day of your pensionable employment.
- The 24 hours break (and 16 hours rule in NI) will apply from your last day of pensionable employment.
- You must retire from pensionable employment and have your contract terminated before becoming entitled to a pension.
No - the regulations require that your contract has terminated.
Exceptions from the usual retire and return to work rules
If you retire on health grounds and return to work having taken the 24 hour break in employment you may resume pensionable NHS employment. This is not possible in Northern Ireland unless you resume NHS pensionable employment before age 50. Since 1 April 2023 members in England, Wales and Scotland can resume pensionable service regardless of age however there are other factors which might affect your ill health pension.
If you are drawing down between 20% and 100% of your benefits via draw down you are not required to resign from your NHS posts to access these partial retirement benefits. All 1995/2008 section benefits must be exhausted first before you are able to draw down 2015 section benefits. Draw down can be undertaken twice. On final retirement, you will need to resign from all NHS posts.
1995 section benefits can only be accessed this way from 1 October 2023 in England, Wales and Scotland. A consultation on this has yet to take place in Northern Ireland.
If you have more than one NHS employment and are made redundant over the age of 55 (the current minimum pension age which is due to increase to 57 on 6 April 2028), you can choose to access the pension solely from the role making you redundant, whilst continuing in pensionable service in your other roles.
You are not required to resign from the other roles in order to access your pension from the redundant role.
Those with benefits in the 1995 section with a minimum pension age in relation to those benefits of 50, who are made redundant between ages 50 and 55, can access 1995 section benefits only.
Having moved to the 2015 scheme on 1 April 2022 (once the McCloud remedy has been applied) should you have a continuous break in pensionable service of five years or more you lose the ‘final salary’ link.
You are not required to resign from NHS employment in order to receive the payment of 1995/2008 section benefits once you have had a break of five years or more.
Your pension benefits are payable from the day after completing five years continuous break in service once you have reached the relevant normal pension age for that section.
If you have been opted out for five years or more and have reached your minimum pension age you are able to access benefits without resigning from your NHS post. Benefits accessed before your normal pension age will be subject to an actuarial reduction.
Rejoining the pension scheme
If you are a retired former member of the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme, you can join the 2015 scheme from 1 April 2023 onwards in England, Wales and Scotland if you are under age 75.
In Northern Ireland you can only rejoin the 2015 scheme if you have retired on the grounds of permanent ill health and you are returning to pensionable employment before you reach age 50.
If you are a retired former member of the 2008 section then you can rejoin the 2015 scheme provided that you have not reached age 75.
If you are a retired former member of the 2015 scheme, you can rejoin up to age 75 with no limits on years of membership.
Once you have accessed 1995 section benefits, payable with a final salary link, you can claim 2015 scheme benefits at the same time then rejoin the 2015 scheme or you can delay taking 2015 scheme benefits and rejoin the 2015 scheme when you return to NHS employment, after your 24 hour break if you are in England, Wales and Scotland.
Members in Northern Ireland can claim 1995 section benefits and delay taking benefits from the 2015 scheme which can be deferred for payment at your state pension age or accessed from the minimum pension age with an actuarial reduction. Currently members in Northern Ireland remain unable to rejoin the HSC pension scheme once final salary linked 1995 section benefits have become payable but they may be subject to autoenrollment requirements and admitted to an alternative pension scheme like NEST.
If you have lost the final salary link, as a result of a continuous break in service of five years or more and access your 1995 section benefits you are able to continue with 2015 scheme accrual.
Find further guidance for members with benefits in more than one section or scheme.
If you are a doctor with MHO (mental health officer) status who is contributing to the 1995 section, your pension might be affected by your future NHS earnings if you retire between 55 and 60 under the MHO status rules.
If you are contributing to the 1995/2008 section/2015 scheme then your pension might be affected by your future NHS earnings if you retire on the grounds of permanent ill health or on the grounds of redundancy ‘in the interests of the efficiency of the service’.
The process by which your pension could be affected by your future NHS earnings is known as abatement.
In relation to CEA payments historically these were stopped on retirement or partial retirement however both the ACCEA and NHS employers have confirmed that from 1st April 2023, members with such awards who retire or partially retire will be able to retain their NCEAs/LCEAs as below:
The scheme rules have been changed to align with the introduction of flexible retirement and up to 100% drawdown of benefits to be introduced to the NHS Pension scheme as of 1st April 2023. NCEAs or NCIAs subject to transition arrangements will continue provided the eligibility criteria continue to be met, however the ACCEA reserve the right to request early re-application where there are significant changes to an award holder’s job plan as a result of any ‘retirement’ arrangements.
In the updated schedule 30, the following addition was made to local awards.
With effect from 1 April 2023, a consultant with a pre-2018 LCEA who retires, or partially retires, and returns to the same employer will retain their pre-2018 LCEA.
Following partial retirement discretionary points will continue to be payable in Scotland.
Continued scheme membership after retirement is now possible for all members under age 75 in England, Wales and Scotland. With the removal of the Lifetime Allowance Charge and the increase to the standard Annual Allowance the need for members to opt out of membership for tax reasons should be much reduced.
The BMA has produced the pension contribution alternative reward policy which is a guide for members to use for the payment of contributions which employers would otherwise make towards their pension should they need to opt out for tax reasons.
Whilst the BMA is pressing for policies such as this to be mandatory, this is down to each employer and you may wish to pursue this with the assistance of an employment adviser.
GP partners are able to contractually stipulate what happens to the employer contribution on their return to non-pensionable re-employment after retirement.
Additional guidance which may apply to members of the HSC pension scheme in Northern Ireland from 1 April 2024:
If you work more than 16 hours per week in an NHS role in the first calendar month after the 24 hour break, and have accessed 1995 section benefits, your pension will be suspended until you work no more than16 hours per week for a full calendar month.
No, unless you are only contracted to work for 16 hours per week or less in your re-employment contract. It is your responsibility to provide evidence to demonstrate that you have not been contracted to work for more than 16 hours per week.
- You must work for no more than 16 hours in each week during the first calendar month. This is a weekly limit and not an average over the month
- You are not allowed, for example, to work for 32 hours one week and then take the next week off.
- The start of the week will differ depending on which day of the week you retire on - for example, if your last day of service is a Monday, your 24 hours break will be on Tuesday and ’your week‘ will be between Wednesday and Tuesday.
- You cannot use annual leave to work no more than 16 hours per week, unless you are only contracted to work for 16 hours per week.
I'm a secondary care doctor in the 1995 section
- If you are a secondary care doctor contributing to the 1995 section and have multiple NHS posts, it is possible to terminate some of your posts and remain working provided that the contract(s) retained total less than 16 hours a week.
- In this situation you do not need to take a break from the remaining posts of 16 hours a week or less and you can simply stop paying pension contributions for these employments and draw your retirement benefits.
I'm a GP in the 1995 section
- If you are a GP contributing to the 1995 section and also have an 'officer' NHS post, it is possible to terminate your GP posts and remain working in the 'officer' post if it is contracted for no more than 16 hours a week.
- In this situation you will need only to resign from all of your GP posts and can simply stop paying pension contributions for the officer employment(s). You cannot give up your officer post and reduce your GP commitments to 16 hours a week or less.
- If you have several GP commitments then they must all be resigned from in order to claim the pension.