Coronavirus  

Pension rules relaxed for returning NHS staff

Pension rules relaxed for returning NHS staff

The government has relaxed its pension rules for NHS staff returning to work so they are not hit by reduced pension payments.

The coronavirus bill, which includes temporary emergency legislation to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, includes measures to help returning NHS staff receive full pension payments.

This comes as the government has urged retired medical professionals to consider re-entering the workforce to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak – a call that 4,000 nurses and 500 doctors have already responded to. 

Under normal circumstances, retired doctors or nurses returning to work could see their NHS pension reduced under a process known as “abatement”. 

But the government has proposed to temporarily suspend the abatement rules.

Under the so-called “16-hour rule” members of the scheme will see their pension suspended if they return to work and commit to more than 16 hours per week within the first four weeks.  

The suspension of this rule will allow staff to return to work immediately after retirement and continue their existing working commitments, or increase them, while still receiving their full pension benefits. 

The Department of Health and Social Care stated: “This would remove the financial disincentive of members having their pension benefits suspended if they return immediately to a working pattern in excess of 16 hours per week following retirement.”

The bill also removes a barrier which currently prevents so-called special class nurses aged 55-60 who have claimed their pension benefits from returning to work without having their pension suspended.

Special class status allows members to access their pension at aged 55, earlier than the normal pension age of 60 for other workers. 

This is because these members are seen to have worked under challenging conditions meaning it is unlikely they will be able to continue in their role until aged 60.

This is only applicable for members who were in their posts before March 6, 1995 as due to advances in health care this special class status was withdrawn for new entrants.

Ian Macvie, pension and retirement planning technical manager at Wesleyan, said: “The proposals could particularly help those who have recently retired, or those who are about to retire - individuals who may have been impacted by the ‘24 hour retirement rules’.

"These are welcome measures that will help more and more of those considering stepping back into service to do so.”

The Coronavirus Bill was published on March 19 and provides the government with the powers needed to respond to the current crisis.

The bill has four primary categories of effect: enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff; easing of legislative and regulatory requirements; containing and slowing the virus; and managing the deceased.

Among the other measures set out in the 329-page bill is a clause to give police new powers to shut down events and order people to go home to stop the spread of the disease. 

amy.austin@ft.com

What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on fa.letters@ft.com to let us know.