PENSIONS

If you still have questions take a look below for the answers

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What are the key features of the police pension schemes?

There are three active police pension schemes (‘PPS’) currently in place. All are statutory schemes which means they are governed by Regulations created by the Home Secretary and laid before Parliament before they become law. The Regulations are complex and have been the subject of a substantial amount of litigation which assists with interpreting their meaning. 

The police pension schemes are defined benefit schemes as opposed to non-public sector workers who are usually in a defined contribution scheme. This means that an officer’s individual pension pot is calculated by reference to either their final salary or career average earnings as opposed to the performance of pension contributions that are invested. Usually, the defined benefit scheme works out favourably for public sector workers compared to those in the private sector.

The 1987 PPS is a final salary pension scheme which was very generous. A police officer’s contributions made up approximately 35% of the notional amount at the end of the scheme.  The 2006 Scheme (aka the ‘New Police Pension Scheme’ or ‘NNPS 2006’) is also a final salary scheme.

 The 2015 Scheme (aka ‘the 2015 CARE Scheme’ where CARE stands for Career Average Revalued Earnings) is based on career average earnings.  Whilst this scheme is not usually as generous as the earlier schemes, it is still a generous pension when compared to what is usually earned in the private sector

When I joined, I was on the 1987 or 2006 pension scheme but I was forced to transfer to the 2015 pension scheme. Was that lawful?

Following a decision of the Court of Appeal in relation to similar schemes for Judges and Fire Fighters, the Home Secretary admitted that the forcible transfer of some police officers onto the 2015 scheme amounted to unlawful discrimination. 

 The 2015 Police Pension Regulations contain ‘transitional arrangements’ which were designed to protect those closest to retirement from the disadvantages of the 2015 scheme. Some officers were entitled to remain as active members of the 1987 or 2006 PPS. Some were entitled to remain on the earlier scheme for a certain period of time after which they would be forced onto the 2015 scheme. Officers with less time in service were forced onto the 2015 scheme and would no longer be able to accrue pension rights under the earlier pension scheme.

 The Court found that these regulations unlawfully discriminated against younger officers.

 The government has stated its intention to correct the discriminatory effects of the 2015 pension schemes. We do not yet know what amendments the government will make or when they will come into force; however the government launched a consultation on the 16th July 2020 seeking views on its proposed method of implementing changes to remedy the unlawful discrimination. It is considering offering affected members the choice of accruing benefits in either the new career average pension scheme or in the final salary pension schemes that members were moved from for the period between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2022 (the remedy period).

The two possible approaches listed by the government are:

  1. an immediate choice
  2. a deferred choice underpin (DCU)

 Under the immediate choice exercise, scheme members would make this decision in the year or two after the point of implementation in 2022. For many members, this will be years before retirement, and at a time when there is still some uncertainty over the precise benefits that would accrue in the alternative schemes. 

 In contrast, under DCU, this decision would be deferred until the point at which a member retires (or when they take their pension benefits). Until that deferred choice is made, all members would be deemed to have accrued benefits in the final salary scheme, rather than the newer scheme, for the remedy period. 

 

My pension contributions are high. Should I opt to leave the pension scheme?

This is an important financial decision. Before you make a decision to opt out you should consult with an independent financial advisor.

You must consider what is affordable for your budget; however you should also bear in mind that public sector pension schemes tend to be far more generous than private sector schemes.

 Additionally, if you leave the pension scheme you will no longer have access to the ill-health benefits provided under the PPS. If you are a member of the PPS and you are forced to retire due to ill-health, you have access to an ill-health pension from the date of your retirement. If you are not a member and you are forcibly retired because you are disabled from doing the duties of an officer, you will not have access to this benefit. 

 

I left the pension scheme. Can I re-join it?

Yes. You should contact HR to obtain the necessary form.

 Be aware that you may need to be medically examined before a decision is made as to whether you will have access to the ill-health benefits element of the pension. Re-joiners may be excluded from access to ill-health benefits if they are deemed at a significantly increased risk of becoming permanently disabled from performing police duties.

 If you are excluded from the ill-health benefits element of the pension scheme, your pension contributions will be reduced.

On joining or re-joining the pension scheme, the Selected Medical Practitioner decided it was likely that I would become disabled and I am ineligible for ill-health benefits. Can I challenge this?

You can appeal a decision to exclude you from the ill-health benefits element of the PPS.

 If this happens to you, we recommend that you contact your Police Federation representative urgently because you must obtain certain medical evidence before submitting your appeal, and the time limit to submit your appeal is very short.

I have been off work due to ill-health and they have reduced me to half / nil pay. What does this mean for my pension contributions?

Whilst you are on half-pay, half of your usual pension contributions will be deducted from your salary. The Force will continue to contribute the full amount to your pension pot.

When you are reduced to nil pay, your contributions to your pension will be zero. The Force will not contribute anything to your pension pot whilst you are on nil pay.

I have been off work due to ill-health and I want to get back to work. How do I make this happen?

First, you should speak with your Police Federation representative, who will be able to explain the process and get the ball rolling.  

You should also discuss this with your GP and any specialists you may be seeing. They might have a view on what tasks they think are appropriate or safe for you to do, and they might recommend some adjustments to your role (whether temporary or permanent).

 The Force Medical Officer / Force Medical Advisor will consider your conditions and give views on what sort of adjustments, if any, should be made to your role.

 Finally, the Force should take all of the information outlined above into account when deciding on your role. It must be risk-assessed and the Force may need to make adjustments in order for the role to be appropriate in light of your condition(s).

 

I cannot do the job anymore due to my ill-health. What are my options?

You could seek an alternative or restricted role within the police which accommodates your condition(s). See FAQ 7 above.

 You could seek ill-health retirement from the Force. For more information, see the following FAQ  

How do I get into the ill-health retirement process?

You need to be referred to the Selected Medical Practitioner (‘SMP’).

Usually, you will have been off work for some time before you or the Force considers ill-health retirement. If this is the case, you will likely have had discussions with HR and the Force Medical Advisor / Force Medical Officer regarding whether there is any way they could adjust your duties so that you can return to work. If this is unsuccessful, the Force Medical Advisor should recommend that you be assessed by the Selected Medical Practitioner to see if you are permanently disabled from performing the duties of an officer.

You do not need to have been recommended for an SMP assessment in this way. Sometimes Forces take quite a long time to go through the process referred to above and by the time a recommendation is made for you to see the SMP, enough you might have already been reduced to half or nil pay.

You should not feel that you must endure the hardship of reduced or nil pay when you cannot go back to work due to your condition(s). Make sure you are in contact with your Federation representative so that he or she can support you throughout this process and advocate on your behalf.

Other options for entry into the ill-health retirement process include:

  • Your line manager can contact the Occupational Health Department to say that you should be referred to the SMP; and
  • You can contact Occupational Health and request a referral to the SMP yourself.

In some cases, Forces are hesitant or refuse to refer you to the SMP for an assessment. If you believe you have wrongly been refused a referral to the SMP, you can appeal to the Crown Court for an order that you be referred. If you are in this situation, you should speak to your Federation Representative about it.

The Selected Medical Practitioner has decided I am permanently disabled from performing the duties of a constable. Are they going to retire me?

If the SMP finds that you are permanently disabled, the Force will next go through a decision-making process about whether to retain you or retire you. Management will consider, amongst other things, the SMP’s report, whether you are suitable for retention and the posts that are available, and will make a recommendation. You will have the opportunity to comment on the Management report, the SMP’s report, and state your wishes. The Chief Constable will then review all this material and decide whether to retain or retire you.

What is an ‘injury pension’?

An injury pension (aka an ‘injury award’) is a one-off gratuity and a sum paid every month to a retired officer if s/he has become permanently disabled as a result of an injury suffered on duty.

You can apply for an injury award once you have been retired.

How should my injury pension banding be calculated?

A former officer’s injury pension is calculated by reference to his/her degree of disablement and average pensionable pay.

The degree of disablement is calculated by reference to the impact which the relevant injury on duty has on an individual’s earnings capacity.

The bandings are:

  • Band 1: 25% or less (slight disablement);
  • Band 2: more than 25% but not more than 50% (minor disablement);
  • Band 3: more than 50% but not more than 75% (major disablement); and
  • Band 4: more than 75% (very severe disablement).
My application for an injury pension was denied. Can I challenge this?

Yes, you can appeal to the Police Medical Appeal Board (PMAB) by filing a ‘Form A’. You should be notified of your right to appeal when you receive the SMP’s report. You should contact Occupational Health to request a Form A if they have not already sent it to you.

Within 28 days of notification of the SMP’s decision, inform the Force of your intention to appeal.  They will then send you a Form A which needs to be completed within 28 days of receipt.

Whilst you have the right to appeal the decision of the SMP, you should be aware that the PMAB might order that you pay the costs of the appeal if it decides that your appeal was frivolous or vexatious. These costs can be quite substantial, sometimes in the region of £10,000.

Can I be legally represented at my hearing before the Police Medical Appeal Board?

Yes.

In days gone by, it was rare for someone to be represented by a lawyer at appeal hearings; however this has become a very complex area of law and there is usually quite a lot of money at stake. As such, individuals are choosing to have legal representation more often, as are the Police Forces. 

If you think you need legal representation, you should speak to your Police Federation representative about applying for funding or you can consider paying privately. 

I think the Police Medical Appeal Board got it wrong. Is there anything I can do about this?

You should get advice as to whether there are grounds to seek permission to judicially review the PMAB’s decision. A judicial review is brought in the High Court, where a judge considers whether the decision was lawful, and if not, what to do about it. Where the decision of the PMAB was unlawful, the court would usually quash the PMAB’s decision, and order it to make a new one. 

It is very important to get advice on this as soon as possible. The time limits to seek permission to judicially review the PMAB’s decision are very short.

I have an injury pension. Now what?

You should be aware that the Force can call you in to review your degree of disablement at suitable intervals. This means that your banding (and therefore your injury pension income) might increase if your condition has gotten worse, or it might decrease if it has improved. You can also request a review, yourself.

These reviews have proved difficult for Forces to lawfully administer. In some instances, Forces have sought to do a ‘mass review’ of all injury pensioners, or they have demanded access to vast amounts of medical records to which they are not entitled. In some cases, unlawful decisions have been taken to reduce pensioners’ banding. We have brought claims to restore them to their correct banding and to recover pension income. READ MORE.

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