alpha is a Defined Benefit scheme (Career Average - CARE). Benefits are calculated using a proportion of pay earned in each scheme year of active service (a scheme year runs from the 1 April to 31 March).

New entrants can join alpha or open a partnership pension account (see table 4), subject to their eligibility.


  • Members contribute a percentage of their pensionable earnings. 
  • Members receive tax relief on contributions subject to HMRC limits. 
  • You pay a monthly contribution (ASLC) to the Cabinet Office Civil Superannuation Vote for each member. It is the equivalent of the employer's contribution to a funded scheme. 
  • Members may buy added pension or contribute to a money-purchase top-up arrangement – see section 5 (‘Your responsibilities when staff are in service’)
  • The extra pension can be bought either through regular payments or by lump sum. 
  • Members can contribute toward an EPA pension account (see section 5 (‘Your responsibilities when staff are in service’)).


  • Not based on final salary

The pension builds up at 2.32% of pensionable earnings each scheme year. The pension will be adjusted in line with inflation every scheme year and when it is in payment, as advised by HM Treasury.

  • Members can exchange some of their pension for a tax-free lump sum on retirement. For each £1 of annual pension given up, the member will receive £12 of lump sum. There are restrictions, set by HM Revenue and Customs, on the total amount of the lump sum. 
  • Ill-health retirement benefits. 
  • Lump sum death benefits. 
  • Family benefits for members' dependants. 
  • Payments to unmarried partners are available, subject to qualifying conditions. The booklet ‘Pensions for partners’ gives more information. 
  • Members are not restricted by the earnings cap.


New entrants and most rejoiners in post on or after 1 April 2015 are eligible to join alpha, depending on their employment status.

Staff in post before 1 April 2015 may be able to join alpha but this is subject to several eligibility criteria.

See section 4 (‘Your responsibilities when staff join’) for eligibility information.

Pension age and taking benefits

The alpha Normal Pension Age (NPA) is the later of either the members State Pension Age (SPA), or age 65. If a member’s SPA changes, this will have an effect on the alpha NPA.

Members can claim their benefits earlier, subject to an early payment (actuarial) reduction.

Members who do not retire at their NPA may continue to build up their pension in the normal way. They will receive an age addition (an extra amount of pension) for each year, or part year that they do not take their pension after their NPA.

Members do not have to take their pension by age 75.

Switching from alpha to partnership and vice versa

Switching can occur at any point, but only once during a 12 month period. This can be done by completing the switch form which must be sent to your HR department two months before the switch date.

21 December 2021
Last updated:
21 December 2021