What is the Matthews case? 

Before 2006, retained firefighters were not eligible to join any fire service pension scheme. 

This was challenged in court and a modified scheme was developed for retained firefighters employed between 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006. This gave those firefighters pension benefits similar to the previous 1992 pension scheme which had closed. 

Eligible retained firefighters could purchase pension rights on terms matching the 1992 scheme, including: 

  • An accrual rate of 1/45th 
  • A normal pension age of 55 years 
  • A deferred pension age of 60 years 
  • Contribution rates that mirror those of the 1992 scheme 
  • A death grant of 2 x pensionable pay 
  •  Ill health benefits 

Following the Matthews case, the European Court ruled separately that retained firefighters could “buy back” pensionable benefits from the start of their employment, provided they were employed as a firefighter between 7 April 2000 and 30 June 2000. 

These members will be contacted in 2024 with the option to join the scheme or buy back additional pensionable service. 

Access to the modified scheme was closed on 31 March 2015. All firefighters who join the service now are enrolled in the Firefighters’ 2015 pension scheme. 

What is the timeframe for Matthews? 

Legislation comes into force on 18 March 2024. 

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the SPPA will then begin to contact eligible retained firefighters to ask them if they would like to buy back pension benefits (sometimes referred to as an ‘the 2nd options exercise’). 

While the legislation comes into force in March, the process for contacting firefighters with their options will take 18 months to complete. This means you may not hear from us until late in 2024. 

Who is affected by Matthews? 

Many retained firefighters have already joined the modified scheme after what was known as the first Matthews options exercise. Members affected by this second exercise are those who were employed as a retained firefighter in Scotland during the following periods: 

  • 7 April 2000 to 30 June 2000 
  • 7 April 2000 to 30 June 2000 and 1 July 2000 to 5 April 2006 
  • 1 July 2000 to 5 April 2006, for firefighters who were not given the option, or who chose not to join the retained firefighters modified pension scheme 2006 as part of the first options exercise. 

Participation is open to all individuals who meet the above criteria, including: 

  • Current firefighters 
  • Firefighters who have left the service. 
  • Firefighters who have left the service and are in receipt of a pension: and 
  • Firefighters who have left the service and are in receipt of ill health retirement benefits. 

What do I have to do if I am affected by Matthews? 

There is nothing for you to do at the moment. 

By the end of 2024 you will receive an ‘expression of interest’ letter with a claim form. You will need to return this after which you will receive a letter which details your options – the cost of any additional pension payments you may need to pay if you wish to ‘buy back’, and how those additional contributions will impact your pension payments. 

Once you have returned your ‘expression of interest’ claim form, your request will be acknowledged. This will also let you know when you can expect the Scottish Public Pensions Agency to send you your options to allow you to make a decision. 

You may need to provide evidence of your service as a retained firefighter and your earnings during the eligible timeframe. SFRS will determine service based on the records that are held (e.g., payroll or HR records). As SFRS may not hold records going back as far as the start of your employment, they may not have enough information to determine a member’s full service history. In these cases, the member will need to provide relevant documentation which could include pay slips, P60s or employment contract.

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