Returning to work after retirement

Guidance on returning to work after retirement including rules on retirement, taking a break in service and limits to working hours and NHS earnings.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 28 September 2020
Piggybank illustration

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 need to take a break in service.

Without a break in service, your pension will be suspended until you take the required break and not paid back in arrears.

You will need to retire from all your NHS posts to claim your pension.

 

COVID-19

During the current COVID pandemic certain NHS pension scheme rules relating to the return to work requirements have been suspended. This includes the requirement to work no more than 16 hours during the first calendar month after the 24 hour break. Find more details from NHS Pensions.

Those with concurrent roles who wish to retain one are still required to work for no more than 16 hours a week in the ongoing role.

 

Exceptions where you do not need to retire from all posts

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 it is for 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.

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 for up to 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 retire on health grounds and return to work having taken the 24 hour break in employment then you are not limited to working for 16 hours a week or less during the first month after retirement. However there are other factors which might affect your ill health pension.

 

Taking a break in NHS service before returning to work

If you are contributing to the 1995 section:

  • you must not work in the NHS during the first 24 hours of your retirement
  • if you return to work after a break of 24 hours then you must not work for more than 16 hours per week during the first calendar month
  • after one calendar month there is no further restriction on the number of hours that you can work
  • alternatively, if you take a month off and return to NHS employment, there are no further restrictions.

If you are contributing to the 2008 section or 2015 scheme:

  • you must not work in the NHS during the first 24 hours of your retirement
  • you can return to work after a break of 24 hours and there is no restriction on the number of hours you can work.

 

If you have untaken annual leave to be paid in lieu

  • 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.
  • You must retire from pensionable employment and have your contract terminated before becoming entitled to a pension.

 

How the 16 hours per week restriction applies

  • You must work for no more than 16 hours in each week during the first calendar 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.

 

Rejoining the NHS pension scheme

If you are a member of the 1995 section of the NHS pension scheme then you can only rejoin the scheme if you have retired on the grounds of permanent ill health and are returning to pensionable employment before you reach age 50.

If you are a member of the 2008 section then you can rejoin the scheme provided that you have not already achieved 45 calendar years’ of service or reached age 75.

If you are a member of the 2015 scheme, you can rejoin up to age 75 with no limits on years of membership.

 

Restrictions on your payments after retirement

If you are contributing to the 1995 section then your pension might be affected by your future NHS earnings if you have MHO status.

If you are contributing to the 1995 or 2008 section 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.

Your CEA or distinction awards will cease to be payable if you retire and return to work.