NHS Pension consultation opened to bolster workforce this winter

01 September 2022

Retire and return rules within the NHS have currently been suspended, allowing staff to return to work without risking certain pension benefits. This change is due to end on 31 October 2022.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a consultation seeking views on extending these measures until 31 March 2023. Due to COVID-19 related sickness, absence rates are currently higher than pre-pandemic levels, additional staff will be required over the winter months to maintain service levels.

The current suspension affects three specific areas of the NHS pension rules:

  • the 16-hour rule: this rule requires staff who retire and return from the 1995 section to work 16 hours a week (2 days) or less in the first month after retirement. Where staff work more than this limit, their pension benefits are temporarily suspended until their working commitments are reduced
  • abatement of SCS members, including mental health officers who are eligible to retire from the 1995 section at age 55 instead of 60 without an actuarial reduction in their pension: abatement applies where staff return to work before age 60 and their pension plus salary exceeds their pre-retirement income
  • abatement of 2008 section and 2015 scheme members who draw down a portion of their benefits and continue working: abatement requires them to reduce their pensionable pay by 10% upon each election to draw down benefits.

The consultation asks two questions:

  1. Do you agree or disagree that the temporary pension easements should continue beyond the planned expiry on 31 October 2022?
  2. Do you agree or disagree that the continuation of the easements until 31 March 2023 is a reasonable length of time?

While this may allow a section of the retired, or partially retired, workforce to return in the NHS, there is still the issue of pension tax charges fuelling retirements among GPs and consultants.

The consultation closes at 11.45pm on 12 September 2022. More details can be found in the DHSC press release.

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