All nurses can partially retire under NHS pension scheme changes

Changes to the NHS pension scheme now mean more nurses can partially retire, receiving their pension while continuing to work.

As of Sunday 1 October, anyone with an NHS pension scheme – not just those on specific contracts – can access this option, the health service has announced.

All nurses, and anyone else on an NHS pension, can take between 20% and 100% of their pensions as long as they reduce their pay by 10% for the first year, either through salary or working hour adjustments.

This 20%-100% will be given in two lump sums. Those taking them can continue to work part time or reduced full time hours as well. They may also take a lower-banded position to meet the 10% reduction.

The changes were made by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), which administers all NHS pensions.

Who can take partial retirement? 

From 1 October, anyone on an NHS pension scheme can take partial retirement as long as they:

  • Are of minimum retirement age (55)
  • Remain contributing to any NHS pension scheme, be it the 1995, 2008 or 2015 versions
  • Agree to adjust pensionable income by at least 10%, either through contract or working hours adjustments
  • Have not agreed to partial retirement two times or more before
  • Agree to remain in the new pensionable pay level for 12 months
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Before 1 October, this option was available only to people on the 2008 and 2015 pension schemes, and not those on the 1995 scheme.

In 2022, all staff were enrolled on to the 2015 version of the NHS pension and, therefore, could technically take partial retirement.

However, they would not have gained the benefits in their partial retirement they had accrued form their 1995 pension scheme.

The changes also mean that NHS staff are able to keep building their pension via the 2015 scheme, even if they take partial retirement.

This comes after NHSBSA made further changes earlier this year to the pension scheme’s retire and re-join option.

As of 1 April 2023, any nurse has reached minimum pension age can retire, take their full pension, and then return to work and continue building their pension via the 2015 scheme.

A spokesperson for Unison said the union will be updating its website to give nurses guidance on the new changes soon.

They said: “We are expecting guidance via the NHS Staff Council to encourage fair, consistent and objective approaches to requests for flexible retirement.

“Unison is arguing that these should be handled under the same flexible working provisions already agreed by the NHS Staff Council. Once published, the guidance will be available [on our website].

“In the meantime, branches should raise flexible retirement process through joint partnership forums with employers to seek an agreed approach to how line managers can support applications for people who need to reduce their earnings by 10% to partially retire and drawdown their pension.”

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The Unison spokesperson said the changes were designed to help retain staff, adding: “[They] should be applied in a way that maintains fairness and equality amongst staff.

“[Union] branches should also work with their employer to ensure anyone retiring or changing contract is notified about the impact on their union membership,” they added.

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