Access to scheme membership for part-time employees

Since 1 April 1991, all NHS employees, regardless of the hours worked, have had access to the NHS Superannuation Scheme (Scotland) (and now to the NHS Pension Scheme (Scotland) 2015). Since 1 September 1997 membership has also been automatic for all.

Recovering ‘lost’ service for part-time employees

Background

Between 1 April 1973 and 31 March 1991, full-time NHS employees and part-time employees working at least half the full-time hours for their grade had access to the NHS Superannuation Scheme.

Although full-time staff automatically started contributing to the scheme (but, from 6 April 1988, could elect to not join or to leave), eligible part-time staff had to elect to join. At this time, part-time NHS employees working less than half the full-time hours for their grade had no right to membership of the scheme, other than part-time medical and dental officers.

Employment tribunal ruling on unfair discrimination

The case for membership rights for part-time staff working less than half of the full-time hours was taken to an employment tribunal. It ruled that these part-time employees had been excluded from membership of an occupational pension scheme and had been unfairly discriminated against.

It also ruled that, subject to certain criteria, these staff members should be given the right to purchase retrospective scheme membership for their service from 8 April 1976. The tribunal also established that an application to purchase a period of part-time service had to be made while an individual was still in the relevant employment or not later than six months after they had left or had a break.

You should note that ‘relevant employment’ has been held to mean each individual trust as the NHS is not a distinct employer. A full version of the rulings on the test cases can be accessed on the HM Courts & Tribunal Service website.

Current position

SPPA has now investigated all claims against the precedents established by the tribunal hearings and reinstated eligible members into the scheme. Any further claims for what’s known as ‘Preston’ service must now be lodged with an employment tribunal.

You can lodge a claim if, between 8 April 1976 and 31 March 1991 (NHSSS) you meet the main criteria below.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive and there may be other reasons why a claim cannot succeed:

  • you must have been excluded by the regulations, for example, worked less than half the full time hours for that post
  • you must have joined the scheme soon after becoming eligible to do so 
  • you must have applied to purchase your part-time service within 6 months of leaving the relevant employment (Note: a voluntary change of trust is deemed to be a break in employment.) If the 6 month rule has been breached, your claim will be time-barred and cannot be considered.

Those who had the legal right to membership, but, for whatever reason, did not exercise it, cannot claim to have past part-time service treated as pensionable under the employment tribunal rulings.

It’s important to note that purchasing previously excluded NHS Service may reduce your State benefits.

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