2015 Pension Changes FAQ

1. Why are changes being made to the pension scheme?

The changes are part of the Government’s wider changes to public service pensions to ensure that the costs of providing pensions are affordable and sustainable in the future.

2. Will I be paying more for my pension?

Your pension contributions changed in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – these changes are happening whether or not you are moving into the new pension scheme. 

3. I am a partnership scheme member. Will I be moved into alpha?

No. Membership of the partnership pension scheme is unaffected by the introduction of alpha. You will remain in the partnership scheme and will still have the option to ‘switch’ between schemes once each year.

4. I have a pension sharing order against my classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS) pension benefits. Will my alpha benefits be affected by my pension sharing order after I move into alpha?

The pension sharing order will apply to the benefits that were valued for the pension sharing order to be produced. If a pension sharing order is made following enrolment into alpha, the benefits valued will include both PCSPS and alpha pension benefits, and the debit will apply in accordance with the sharing order.

5. What are the rules for partial retirement in the new scheme?

The partial retirement rules for service in the new scheme will follow the existing partial retirement rules. If you have service in both the existing and the new scheme, you will be able to apply for partial retirement for each scheme, within the limits that are set out in the scheme rules.

6. I missed the deadline for transferring in a previous pension when I joined classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS). Will I be able to transfer it in when I move into alpha?

No. The transfer in time limit is not reset when a member of the PCSPS pension scheme moves into alpha. For more information on the time limits that apply see the Scheme Guides. 

7. I cannot access all of the information on the Civil Service Pensions website. Why is this?

The security settings used by some employer IT networks might stop you from accessing all materials. You should be able to access the entire site from home or on any internet enabled device, for example your smart phone or tablet.

8. Can I join partnership instead of staying in my current scheme or moving into alpha?

Currently, members who joined before 2002 are not able to join partnership. However, Cabinet Office is reviewing the eligibility rules for partnership to provide main scheme members with the option of an alternative, good quality Defined Contribution arrangement.

Cabinet Office’s consultation, which can be found here, proposes extending partnership access to members who joined before 2002 if they are also eligible to join the new 2015 scheme alpha. This would take place at a future date, likely to be April 2016.

This means that if you are eligible for the Options exercise and choose to remain in classic until your alpha enrolment date (Option 1 of the Options Exercise), you will not be able to join partnership during this period. You will only be able to join partnership once you have moved into alpha.

Please note that the proposed changes to the partnership arrangements are under consultation and are subject to change. More details will be made available later this year, once the consultation ends. 

9. How will the new Normal Pension Age (NPA) in alpha affect my options if I am made redundant?

If you leave early on voluntary or compulsory redundancy, or on voluntary exit, you may be entitled to a compensation payment under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS). You can also choose to take your pension if you have reached your minimum pension age. The minimum pension age in alpha is 55.

Normal Pension Age (NPA) is the earliest age that a scheme member can usually take their pension benefits without reduction. NPA in classic, classic plus and premium is usually age 60, in nuvos it is usually age 65, and in alpha it is the usually same as your State Pension age.

If you take your pension after the minimum pension age but before your NPA, it will be reduced because it will be paid for longer. However, you may be able to buy out this reduction, so that your pension is paid in full. You can use any compensation you received under the CSCS to fund the buy-out. If you leave on voluntary redundancy, and in some circumstances if you leave on voluntary exit, your employer may be able to top-up your compensation payment if it is not enough to buy out the reduction.

Once you move to alpha and you leave on early exit terms

If you are over the alpha minimum pension age of 55 you can take your alpha and PCSPS pensions together. Both will be reduced for early payment, but if you received compensation under the CSCS you can use it to buy-out the reduction. In some circumstances your employer may top-up your compensation if it is not enough to buy out the reduction in both your alpha and PCSPS pensions. PCSPS benefits can have a minimum pension age of 50 (some classic, classic plus, or premium members), lower than the minimum pension age in alpha. There is more information about minimum pension age available in the main scheme booklets.

If you leave under CSCS after age 50, but before the alpha minimum pension age you cannot take both your alpha pension and PCSPS pension together. You can access your PCSPS benefits and use any compensation you received under the CSCS to buy out the reduction. Your employer (in some circumstances) can top-up your compensation if it is not enough to buy out the reduction in your PCSPS benefits. You would not be able to access your alpha pension immediately, and it would be preserved. You can choose to claim your pension on early payment terms once you reach age 55. If you did claim your alpha pension at that point and wanted to buy out the early payment reduction you would need to use your own funds; there would be no employer top-up available.

Any compensation that is payable is reduced if you are approaching, or you are over, your NPA when you leave. Once you move into alpha, this is your alpha NPA, which is usually the same as your State Pension age.

10. What happens if I opt out of the scheme and opt back in at a later date?

This factsheet explains what will happen to members in different schemes, who opt out and back in again at different times.

11. Is there a maximum number of years I can contribute to alpha?

alpha pension, like nuvos, is not measured in years. You build up a percentage of your pensionable earnings each year.

12. What is the maximum amount of pension I can build up in alpha?

There is no limit to the amount of pension a member can build up in alpha.

13. Will my Civil Service Pension scheme member number change when I move into alpha?

No, your membership number does not change on your move to alpha.

Your employer may use a different reference number when they correspond with you about your pension. This is not your member number. Your employer should be able to tell you about any changes to this reference number.

14. How can I work out how much my pension will be once I join alpha?

The alpha scheme guide details how alpha benefits are worked out and the impact on any PCSPS (classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos) benefits you have. You can use the alpha retirement estimator to see how your pension could build up once you join alpha.

15. Before moving into alpha, I was a classic/classic plus member, will I still get my automatic lump sum?

You will get your automatic classic / classic plus lump sum for the service up to the date that you join alpha.

When you claim your pension it will be made of two portions, your alpha pension and your classic / classic plus benefits.

The portion from your classic / classic plus pension will still be based on those scheme rules. This means you will still get your automatic lump sum from your membership in that scheme.

There is no automatic lump sum in alpha. However, when you take your pension benefits you will have the option to give up some of your annual pension and take this as a one-off lump sum instead. You will be able to do this at a rate of £1 of annual pension in exchange for every £12 lump sum, subject to HMRC limits.

16. Before moving into alpha, I was a classic/classic plus/premium member, what final salary will you base my PCSPS pension on?

We will use your final pensionable earnings at, or close to, the date you leave alpha, not the date you move into alpha. The link to your final salary is being retained for your PCSPS benefits.

When you leave alpha your pension will be made up of two portions, your alpha pension and your classic/classic plus/premium benefits.

Any pay increases or promotions you have received since you moved into alpha will be reflected in the final pensionable earnings that are used to calculate your PCSPS pension.

17. What happens to my pension benefits from classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS) if I claim my alpha pension at my alpha Normal Pension Age (NPA)?

Your PCSPS pension will come into payment at the same time as your alpha pension. These benefits will continue to be based on the rules of that scheme, including the NPA and any automatic lump sum from classic.

18. My current State Pension age is 66. Will my Normal Pension Age (NPA) in alpha be the same?

Yes, but if your State Pension age changes, your NPA will also change. You can work out your State Pension age here.

19. Why might my State Pension age change?

The State Pension age has been undergoing changes since April 2010. The changes will see the State Pension age rise to 65 for women between 2010 and 2018, and then to 66, 67 and 68 for both men and women.

The government has committed to carry out a review of the State Pension age every five years. The first review will take place in the next Parliament

20. If I retire later than my alpha Normal Pension Age (NPA), will my alpha pension be increased?

Yes. 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.

21. Will I still get my classic standard lump sum when I retire?

Yes. Your standard classic lump sum will be calculated when you leave or retire. You may also be able to exchange some of your classic pension for an increased lump sum, subject to the limits set by HMRC. You can also exchange some of your alpha pension for a lump sum, subject to the limits set by HMRC. 

22. Can I still choose to exchange some of my pension for a lump sum?

Yes – there is an option to exchange some of your annual pension in the new scheme for a lump sum. This would mean giving up £1 of annual pension for £12 of lump sum, subject to HMRC limits.

23. Will you use my pensionable earnings at the time of my move into alpha to calculate my classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS)?

No. If you are currently a member of one of the final salary sections (classic, classic plus or premium), the service you have built up when you move into alpha, together with any added years you are purchasing will be banked. Your pension benefits will be calculated using your banked service and your pensionable earnings, at or close to the point you leave or retire from alpha. If you were a member of nuvos the pension you have earned when you move to alpha will be banked and added to any pension you earn in alpha.

24. Will I be able to take my classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS) pension benefits without leaving or retiring from alpha?

No. The only way you can access your PCSPS pension benefits without retiring fully from alpha is to partially retire. Partial retirement enables eligible members, who have reached their minimum pension age and have approval from their employer, to move gradually towards full retirement. The only exception is if you have a separate preserved PCSPS award, which you could claim separately from any other pension benefits. Abatement still applies to all PCSPS pensions in payment.

25. At what age can I take all my benefits?

You must be over your minimum pension age to claim any of your pension benefits.

However, as your two pension portions come from two separate schemes, you can draw your pension from one scheme while leaving the other one untouched. However, you will still need to meet the criteria to be able to draw the pension – including either leaving the Civil Service or taking partial retirement.

The current minimum pension age is 55 for members of alpha.

If you claim your pension before your Normal Pension Age (NPA) it will be reduced because it is being paid early.

The Normal Pension Age (NPA) for each scheme is detailed below. You may have a different pension age as a result of a TUPE transfer. 

If you have pension benefits in more than one of the schemes (i.e. you moved into alpha from classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos) you will have a pension that is made up of two separate portions. Each of these portions could have a different NPA and minimum pension age.

When you claim your pension, how each portion is treated depends on your age, and the NPA of each portion. 

For example: A member has classic and alpha portions of their pension. Each portion has a separate NPA, classic is age 60 and alpha is age 67.

If the member chooses to leave employment and retire:

  • at age 58. They would be under both NPAs, so both portions of their pension would be reduced for early payment (based on 2 years for the classic portion and 9 years for the alpha portion).
  • at age 60. They would be at their classic NPA, so the classic portion of their pension can be paid in full. But they would be under their alpha NPA so that portion would be reduced (based on 7 years) for early payment.
  • at age 67. They would be at their alpha NPA, so both portions of their pension can be paid in full (unreduced). The classic benefit will be worked out using the member’s pensionable earnings at, or close to, age 67 and not what they were earning when they moved into alpha.

26. What reduction will apply to an alpha pension if it is paid early?

You can find the relevant actuarial factors below.

27. If I die after moving into alpha from classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS), what death benefit will my nominee(s) receive?

If you die as an active member the total amount will be the better of either:

  • two times your final pay at your date of death, or
  • five times the pension you have built up.

28. Do I need to fill in a new death benefit nomination form when I move into alpha?

The nomination(s) you have made in the PCSPS will also apply to your alpha benefits if you have not made a new nomination since you moved into alpha. If you made a nomination while in alpha it will apply to both the alpha and PCSPS parts of your pension.

You should review your nominees' information regularly and remember to update their details whenever they move home, or if they change names through marriage / divorce etc or if your circumstances change.

29. Can I have more than one death benefit nominee in alpha?

Yes. You can have more than one death benefit nominee and you also need to decide how you would like any death benefit lump sum to be shared between your nominees. If you do not say how you want the death benefit lump sum to be shared between your nominees, the Scheme Managers will distribute any death benefit equally between your nominees.

30. Once I have moved into alpha, will my children get a pension in the event of my death?

They will if they are your natural or adopted child (or a child that was financially dependent on you on your date of death) and meet any of the following criteria:

  • Is aged under 18, or in full-time education or vocational training and has not reached the age of 23.
  • Has a disability that makes them unable to engage in gainful employment.

31. Can I buy more pension and retire earlier?

Yes, you can buy added pension and / or enter into arrangements to be able to leave earlier without any adjustment to the pension that you have earned to that point.

32. What’s the difference between added years and added pension?

Added pension is an amount of extra annual pension that you can buy; it will be paid with your pension after you retire.

It was possible, up to 29 February 2008, to buy ‘added years’ of service.  If you have an existing added years contract and want to know more about it, please contact MyCSP.

33. I am currently buying added pension in classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS) by monthly contributions. Will I be able to continue to do so after I move into alpha?

If you have entered into an agreement to buy added pension by monthly contributions beyond 31 March 2015, you can continue paying for your PCSPS added pension as you are now. After moving into alpha, you will also have the option to buy alpha added pension too.

34. I have already bought the maximum amount of added pension allowed in classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS), will I be able to buy more added pension when I join alpha?

Yes. There is also a limit to the amount of added pension you can buy in alpha but this is separate from any PCSPS added pension you have bought. The added pension limit for alpha is shown in the alpha added pension calculator.

35. What will happen to my added year(s) contract when I move into alpha?

You will be able to continue paying for your classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos (PCSPS) added year(s) contract as you are now, until the contract end date is reached. If you cancel your PCSPS added year(s) contract, you will not be able to restart it at a later date. The added years you buy will be included in the calculation of your PCSPS pension benefits when you leave or retire.

36. What is EPA?

EPA is a new way that alpha members can take control of their retirement planning. By paying higher contributions, members are able to take part of their pension earlier than their Normal Pension Age (NPA) without any early payment reduction.

You can find out more in the EPA factsheet.

37. Can I pay for EPA using a lump sum?

No. You can only purchase an EPA by paying additional monthly contributions. Your employer will deduct these contributions from your salary. See the section ‘Buying your EPA’ on page 3 of the EPA factsheet.