What happens when you leave the pension scheme?

On this page:

  • Leaving or opting out of the scheme
  • Moving to another Fire Service in the UK

Whether you're leaving firefighting, moving to a new post in another area of the UK or simply deciding to opt out of the pension scheme, you have a number of options depending on how long you've been a member of your firefighters' pension scheme.

Your options may also be complicated by having membership in more than one firefighters' pension scheme - and if you've transferred benefits from another pension (which would mean you'd automatically qualify for a pension). The following details are designed to help you make the right choices if you're opting out or leaving.

Your firefighter’s pension is a valuable benefit

Before leaving your Scottish Firefighters’ pension scheme you should carefully consider all your options, comparing any costs and the value of the many benefits provided by the scheme. It’s also worth taking independent financial advice when you’re weighing up your options. Remember, if you remain in the scheme you’ll continue to benefit from:

  • a pension payable for life upon retirement once you've completed your qualifying service
  • the option to take part of your pension as a tax-free lump sum when you retire
  • tax relief on any contributions you pay into the scheme
  • a range of benefits for your dependants if you die
  • the option to nominate an individual, or individuals, to receive a lump sum payable in the event of your death
  • the option to increase your benefits by paying extra contributions which can be deducted along with your regular contributions or paid as lump sums
  • the option to apply for ill-health retirement if you’re unable to work due to ill-health.

Leaving before you've completed your 'qualifying service'

If you’ve made contributions to any of the Scottish firefighters' pension schemes but have stopped paying into your scheme either because you’ve left the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service or you've opted out, your membership will be deferred.

Your options in deferred membership depend on how long you've been paying into the scheme when you leave.

If you have less than three months’ qualifying service you can:

Leaving after you've completed your 'qualifying service'

Once you've completed your qualifying service (three months for the 2015 and 2006 schemes and two years for the FPS 1992 scheme) you'll qualify for benefits from the scheme so you can't have a refund of contributions. If you leave the fire pensions scheme your benefits will be preserved in the scheme and will be revalued every year in line with Consumer Price Index increases until you retire. This is known as 'deferred membership.' 

The three different firefighters' pension schemes have different rules on when deferred members can take their preserved benefits. These are:

  • Age 60 for the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992
  • Age 65 for the New Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006
  • State Pension Age for the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2015

You can apply for your benefits from the minimum pension age of 55, but your benefits would be reduced.

You can also transfer your preserved benefits to another defined benefit scheme, for example if you join a fire and rescue authority in another part of the UK.

Moving to another firefighting role outside Scotland

If you move to a fire and rescue authority in another part of the UK you'll need to join the scheme offered by that country.

You should ask your new employer about their scheme right away and initiate the transfer process immediately so that you maintain the level of benefits you're currently entitled to in your existing scheme - including preserving your normal pension age if you're in either the 1992 or 2006 schemes.

If you don't arrange a transfer to your new employer's scheme, your benefits will be preserved in the scheme and you'll have various options to take them from age 55 (or age 60 for FPS 1992 scheme).

Leaving the scheme while still working as a firefighter in Scotland

Membership of the pension scheme it is not compulsory. Although all firefighters are automatically enrolled, you can choose to opt out at any time by completing an opt out form. Before opting out, however, you should remember that your pension provision is a valuable part of your remuneration package, providing you with a range of benefits as well as an income in retirement. You may want to seek financial advice before opting out of the scheme.

If you do decide the leave the scheme, your benefits will be treated in the same way as if you had left service.

You should also note that your employer will automatically re-enrol you back into the scheme every three years. You can also re-join the scheme at any time by contacting your employer.

Further reading

Firefighters' Pension Scheme opt out leaflet

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