What is alpha?

The alpha pension scheme is part of the Civil Service pension arrangements. Most new entrants who join after 01 April 2015 will be eligible for membership of alpha.

Who runs alpha?

The Scheme Manager (Cabinet Office) is responsible for alpha. It decides the benefits members will get, what level of contributions members and employers pay and all other policy affecting the scheme.

The Scheme Administrator, administers alpha on behalf of the Scheme Manager. This involves the day- to-day administration of alpha, including calculating and arranging payment of members’ pension benefits.

The Scheme Administrator can only act on behalf of the Scheme Manager and within the regulations of alpha. Details of who to contact can be found in Section 07E – Important contact information.

Where can I see the alpha regulations?

These are set out in The Public Service (Civil Servants and Others) Pensions Regulations 2014. You can see a copy on the Civil Service Pensions website: www.civilservicepensionscheme.org.uk

What sort of scheme is alpha?

alpha is an occupational pension scheme that you can join because your employer is covered by the Civil Service pension arrangements. alpha provides a defined benefit worked out on a Career Average basis. A defined benefit pension scheme provides a pension based on set criteria, usually related to the members’ pensionable earnings and/or length of service (including any transferred in pension benefits). A Career Average pension scheme means you build up a pension based on a percentage of how much you earned each year.

Will I join alpha?

Most employees can join alpha and all eligible new joiners will automatically be enrolled into the scheme.

You can choose to opt out of alpha, join the partnership pension scheme, or make other pension arrangements yourself. Your employer will not contribute to a private pension arrangement. Section 01D - Your other options has more information on what else is available.

Usually, once every three years, your employer has to put all eligible employees, who are not in an appropriate pension scheme, into alpha. Your employer will tell you when, and if, you will be enrolled into the scheme.

If I do not join alpha now, can I join at a later date?

Yes. If you choose not to join on your start date, you can choose to join at a later date by ‘opting in’. There is more information on opting in or out, and switching schemes in Section 01D - Your other options.

What do I get as an alpha member?

As an alpha member you will build up an annual pension, and you get tax relief on the pension contributions you make, subject to HM Revenue & Customs limits. The alpha pension you build up is adjusted each year in line with prices. When you start taking your benefits you will get an option to exchange some of your annual pension for a one-off, tax-free, lump sum. alpha also provides some benefits that can be made to your family if you die.

How much do I pay?

The amount you have to contribute to alpha is based on which ‘pay band’ your earnings fall into each pay period. You can see all the pay bands, and the contribution rates on the dedicated page. Please remember that these contribution rates are subject to change.

When can I take my benefits from alpha?

You can take your alpha benefits from your alpha Normal Pension Age (NPA) without any early payment reduction. In alpha, NPA is the later of age 65, or your State Pension age.

You can claim your alpha pension after you reach alpha’s minimum pension age, which is currently 55. If you do your pension is reduced because it is likely to be paid for a longer period of time. The earlier you claim your pension the greater the reduction will be.

What if I take my benefits after my NPA?

If you claim your pension after your alpha NPA, a late payment addition will be added to the alpha pension you have built up to take account of you retiring later than your NPA.

What if my State Pension age (SPA) changes?

As your alpha scheme NPA is linked to your SPA, if your SPA changes your NPA will change too.

What happens if I leave alpha?

Your pension will be worked out on the day you leave. You will get a preserved pension if you have more than two years’ qualifying service, or be offered a refund or transfer if you have less. Section 04 - Leaving the scheme has more information on what will happen to your pension if you leave alpha.

What if I get too ill to work?

If you become too ill to work, you may be able to retire early on medical grounds. If the Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA) agrees that your health will prevent you from doing your current job, and that your condition is permanent, you can apply to get your pension paid early. If you have a limited life expectancy, you may be able to get your pension paid to you as a one-off lump sum. Section 05D – Ill-health retirement has more information on what happens if you are too ill to continue to work.

What benefits are payable if I die?

alpha provides both a lump sum payment (that may be paid to a person, people or organisation you choose to nominate) and pensions for your eligible dependants (spouse / civil partner / partner / dependent children).

The amount of pension that is payable depends on the pension you have built up and your pay at the time you die. Whether you are in service, a deferred member (you have a preserved pension), or retired will also have an effect on these payments. Section 06 – death benefits explains this in more detail.

If I leave can I transfer my alpha pension to another pension scheme?

Yes. You may be able to transfer your pension to another defined benefit scheme, but it will have to meet some qualifying conditions. There is more information on this in Section 04 - Leaving the scheme.

Can I increase my pension?

Yes, there are ways to increase the amount of pension that you will get by paying some extra contributions.

Buying Added Pension and the Civil Service Additional Voluntary Contributions Scheme (CSAVCS) are both ways you can boost your retirement income.

You also have the option to buy an EPA portion of your alpha pension. Doing this allows you to claim part of your pension earlier than your alpha NPA, without any early payment reduction, which gives you some control over your retirement planning.

There is more information on all of these features in Section 02 - Taking control of your retirement planning.

Will I get two separate pensions if I move into alpha from classic / classic plus / premium / nuvos?

At the end of each section of this scheme guide you will find information especially for members who moved into alpha from one of the sections of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS). This information will help you understand the implications of having periods of service in both alpha and the PCSPS.

An overview of alpha and the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS)

This section only applies to members who were in the PCSPS (classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos) before 01 April 2015, and then moved from that scheme into alpha.

It does not cover every aspect of the scheme; full details are set out in the scheme rules, which are the legal basis of the scheme. You can find copies of the PCSPS scheme rules on the Civil Service Pensions website.

Nothing in this guide can override the scheme rules. Every effort has been made to make this guide as accurate as possible, but in the event of any difference, the rules will apply. This guide is based on the rules current at the time of publication and there is no guarantee that any part of the rules will not change in the future. You should be aware that tax rates and limits are subject to change.

If this section applies to you, please read it carefully to understand what happens to both parts of your pension.

What happened to the pension I built up in the PCSPS?

When you moved into alpha your benefits in nuvos, or any service that you had built up in classic, classic plus, or premium, were ‘banked’.

How will my pension be worked out?

Your pension will be made up of two parts, your PCSPS pension and your alpha pension. These two separate parts will be worked out differently, based on each of the scheme’s rules.

Your pensionable earnings or final pensionable earnings, depending on what section your PCSPS benefits are in, are taken from the date you actually retire (or leave if earlier), not the date you move into alpha.

What does ‘banked’ mean?

Banked service is your classic / classic plus / premium service that you built up while you were a member of PCSPS. This is held on your record and used to work out that part of your pension when you claim it. You will not build up any more service in classic, classic plus, or premium once you have moved into alpha.

For example:

Anna moves into alpha on 01 April 2015 after building up 20 years service in classic. On 01 April 2015 Anna’s pensionable earnings were £15,000. Using her 2015 pensionable earnings Anna’s pension would be £3,750 a year.

When Anna moves into alpha, her 20 years of classic service is banked.

Anna stays in alpha until she reaches her NPA in 2025. Because of pay rises and a promotion, her pensionable earnings are now £25,000. Anna’s banked service is still 20 years. If Anna claimed her pension in 2025, using her banked service and new pensionable earnings the classic part of her pension would be £6,250 a year.

Banked benefits is the nuvos pension you built up before your move into alpha. These benefits are held on your record, but you will not add any more to them. The value of your nuvos pension will be adjusted each year in line with prices.

For example:

Anna moves into alpha on 01 April 2015 after building up £5,000 a year of nuvos pension.

When Anna moves into alpha, her £5,000 a year of nuvos pension is banked.

Anna stays in alpha until she reaches her NPA in 2025. Over the 10 years her nuvos benefits were banked, they were adjusted in line with prices. If every year this was a 1% increase, her nuvos pension would be £5,523 a year.

What is my Normal Pension Age?

The alpha Normal Pension Age (NPA) is the later of age 65, or your State Pension age (SPA).Your PCSPS scheme’s NPA is usually age 60 in classic, classic plus and premium, or age 65 for nuvos.

When can I claim my pension?

You can claim your pension after you have left employment, or by taking partial retirement.

The earliest you can claim your benefits is your minimum pension age.

If you joined the PCSPS before 06 April 2006, your minimum pension age in that scheme is likely to be 50. All other members can take their benefits from age 55.

The minimum pension age in alpha is currently age 55.

If you claim your pension before its NPA it will be reduced for early payment. As each part of your pension might have a different NPA, the amount each part is reduced could be different.

There is more information on claiming your pension benefits in Section 05 - Claiming your pension.

6 December 2021
Last updated:
22 August 2022