Find out what happens to your pension when you stop working for NHS Scotland
On this page:
- What happens to your pension when you leave the NHS
- Preserve your existing pension
- Transfer your pension to another scheme
Leaving within three months
Opting out between three months and two years
- apply for a refund of contributions, less a deduction for tax
- transfer your benefits to another public service pension scheme
- defer taking a refund until you’ve decided what you’re doing next (for example, returning to the NHS at a future date or re-joining the scheme within five years)
Preserving your benefits
If you contribute to an NHS Scotland pension for more than two years, your benefits will be preserved for you when you leave. This means that any contributions you made will be kept in the pension scheme until you retire.
What you’re entitled to will depend on how long you paid in for and what your salary was at the time. Your pension will still be increased every year in line with the Consumer Price Index.
When can I take my pension?
You can claim your pension in full at your normal pension age. This will be different depending on which NHS pension scheme you paid in to:
- 1995 section, from age 60
- 2008 section, from age 65
- 2015 scheme, from your State Pension age
In most cases, you can choose to retire early and access some of your pension with a reduction from age 50 or age 55. You can also retire because of ill health.
Although your pension benefits remain the same, you will be entitled to different death benefits after you leave the NHS.
What happens if I re-join NHS Scotland?
If you have preserved benefits and you’re in NHS employment in Scotland, you can re-join the scheme at any time before your normal pension age.
If you have a break in service lasting more than five years, you’ll be placed in the 2015 scheme – even if you were previously a member of the 1995 or 2008 scheme.
Transfer your pension to another scheme
Transfer your pension to another scheme
When you leave NHS Scotland, you might be able to transfer the value of your pension benefits to another approved pension scheme.
If you have more than two years’ service, you can apply for a transfer at any time before your normal pension age.
If you have less than two years’ service, you must:
- Join your new scheme within 12 months of leaving the NHS, and
- Apply for your transfer within 12 months of joining your new scheme
Pension transfers are frequently targeted by criminals. Anyone can be the victim of a pension scam. Please read information provided by the Pensions Regulator before you make a final decision on your pension transfer.
Transferring to a new workplace pension
You can transfer out to an approved workplace pension scheme with defined benefits. If you have less than two years’ pensionable employment with NHS Scotland, you can also transfer your pension benefits to a defined contribution scheme.
Transferring to the NHS in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
You can transfer your existing benefits into a pension scheme with the NHS in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland if you’re moving to a post there. The transfer won’t take place automatically – you’ll have to make a formal application. When you start your job, ask your new employer about their transfer process.
Transferring to a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme
To check if you’re able to transfer to a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme, send the details of your new scheme to our transfers team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your transfer might be subject to a tax deduction.
How to transfer your pension
Ask your new pension provider about their transfer process and check that they will accept a transfer from the NHS pension scheme. Your new provider will manage the transfer request for you.
When we receive a transfer request from the receiving scheme, we’ll check they are eligible and provide a transfer value as quickly as we can. This will be guaranteed for three months. We’ll send the valuation to your new pension provider along with any necessary forms.
Your new provider will tell you what benefits your transfer value will buy in their scheme. At this stage, you should compare the benefits offered by your new provider with those preserved in the NHS scheme.
You should also compare the normal retirement age in the NHS scheme with your new provider’s normal retirement age as it can sometimes change as a result of the transfer. SPPA can’t give you financial advice, so you should to contact an independent financial advisor before transferring your benefits to a new scheme.
Information can be found on The Money and Pensions Service Website.
If you decide to proceed with the transfer, sign the discharge forms and send them to your new scheme so they can request the transfer on your behalf. Once a payment has been sent to your new scheme, transfers cannot be reversed. Make sure you check it against the normal retirement age in your new provider’s scheme.
Contact the SPPA Transfers Team
Write to us
Scottish Public Pensions Agency
7 Tweedside Park
01896 893 000 and ask for Transfers when prompted