Concordat Steering Group – pensions developments

The Concordat Steering Group (CSG) has been focusing on pensions provision post 1 April 2013.  A number of decisions have since been made and confirmed in a joint letter from the Department of Health and the Local Government Association on 20 December: http://healthandcare.dh.gov.uk/pensions-letter/

This follows the joint letter of 17 May confirming that staff performing public health functions who have access to the NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS) on 31 March 2013 will retain this access, on transfer from PCTs to local authorities.

Since then, a partnership working group has been meeting to consider pension provision for these staff who then subsequently move posts and also for new starters to local authorities. The options and implications are complex and the discussions have involved the LGA, the Department, the Department for Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury and both local government and health trade unions.

It has been agreed that:

- all transferring staff will retain access to the NHSPS if they are then compulsorily moved to another post within the same local authority and remain in direct local authority employment;

- transferring ‘public health professionals’ and staff in the 1995 section of the Scheme, within 10 years of their normal pension age of 55 or 60 as at 1 April 2012 and those covered by tapering protection, will retain access to the NHSPS if they make a voluntary move to another public health post within the same local authority;

- all other transferring staff who do not fall within the categories above, will join the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) if they move posts voluntarily after transfer;

- local authorities, as employers, can decide whether to apply for a directions order to allow continued access to the NHSPS for public health professionals and staff nearing retirement where they recruit ‘new joiners’ to public health roles who already have access to the NHSPS. These staff could be recruited from the NHS, another local authority or elsewhere.

The above agreements are designed to focus on specific roles transferring to local government which are likely to:

- require specific public health skills and experience;

- be largely NHS facing; and

- be appropriate for staff whose careers are likely to move around the public health system.

They also define who will fall into the category of staff nearing retirement to provide certainty for them and enable clear financial planning for the NHSPS and local authorities.

The above agreements are designed as far as possible to enable the easy movement of staff around the public health system and assist local authorities in recruiting specifically qualified public health staff. Both the NHSPS and the LGPS form a valuable part of the pay and rewards package for employees.

The CSG has undertaken a consultation and has been carrying out detailed work on the technical aspects of this agreement with employers, trade unions and public health staff. Work continues on the definition of ‘public health professionals’ for pension purposes and further technical guidance will be issued as soon as possible. A set of explanatory ‘frequently asked questions’ which will include more detailed definitions will be published in January. This will include more detailed guidance for local authorities on the administration of the NHSPS.

 

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