Understanding the options for your preserved pension benefits
If you contributed to an NHS pension in Scotland for more than two years before either leaving NHS employment or by opting out of the scheme, your benefits will have been preserved for you to take at a later date.
What are preserved benefits?
A preserved benefit is a benefit that’s being held in the scheme for you until you qualify to take it.
Preserved benefits are calculated based on your service and salary to the date you left the scheme and they’re re-valued annually in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index.
You should note that although your actual pension benefits remain the same when they’re preserved, the scope of your death benefits will change when you leave the scheme.
When can I take my benefits?
You can claim your preserved benefits in full at your normal pension age. Your normal pension age depends on which section of the scheme your benefits are preserved under. Normal pension ages in the various sections are:
1995 section – 60.
2008 section – 65.
2015 scheme – your State Pension age.
In most circumstances you must not be working for the NHS anywhere in the UK at the time of claiming your benefits. In the majority of cases you must terminate your NHS employment before you’re able to claim your benefits even where you’re not currently paying in to the scheme.
Voluntary Early Retirement with Actuarial Reduction is an option that allows you to claim your benefits (at a reduced rate) earlier than your normal pension age. If you stopped contributing before 31 March 2000 you’re not eligible for voluntary early retirement.
The minimum voluntary early retirement ages for each of the sections are:
1995 section – 50, if you stopped contributing to the scheme after 31 March 2000 or; 55 if you joined on or after 6 April 2006.
2008 section - from age 55.
2015 scheme - from age 55.
For further information on the retirement process please see our planning for retirement section.
Ill health retirement is another way that preserved benefits may become payable before normal pension age. In order to qualify, you must satisfy our independent medical advisers that you’ve become permanently incapable of any further employment due to ill-health reasons. You’ll find further information on ill health retirement here.
What happens if I re-join the scheme?
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. Your new service may be linked with your preserved service if the benefit of doing so would be more advantageous to you. If not, separate benefits will be awarded in respect of the additional service.
If you have a break in service lasting more than 5 years, you’ll be placed in the 2015 Scheme – even if you were previously a member of either the 1995 or 2008 Sections. There’s more information on re-joining the scheme here.
Note for deferred members with less than two years' service
If your service was less than two years when you left or opted out of your scheme, your options will depend on which section is holding your contributions. You could:
• transfer your benefits to another defined benefit scheme
• defer taking a refund until you’ve decided on your future intentions (for example, if you return to the NHS or re-join the 2015 scheme within 5 years, you can continue to add to your existing contributions) or;.
• apply for a refund of your contributions (immediately if you’re a 2015 scheme member or after you’ve left the scheme for more than 12 months if you’re a 1995 or 2008 section member).
If you have contributed to more than one section of the scheme, you should contact us to discuss your options.