RCM action leads to positive step forward on pension abatement rules affecting retired midwives

By Colin Beesley on 31 August 2022 Midwifery Midwives Midwifery Workforce Maternity Services NHS England Government Pensions Midwife Shortage

Efforts by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) urging the Government to extend the temporary suspension of abatement rules affecting retired midwives in England have taken a positive step forward.

The abatement rules prevent those who have accessed their pension and choose to return to work from earning more (with their pension and earnings) than they did prior to retirement.

The rules were paused during the pandemic and that pause was extended again until 31 October this year. The aim was to encourage midwives to go back to work to support the NHS during the pandemic. Now the Government is consulting on whether to continue the extension until 31 March next year. Directors and heads of midwifery have told the RCM that retired midwives returning to work has meant their services have been able to continue safely.

“The change in the rules allowed midwives who otherwise would not have come back to work to do that and shored up the NHS in a time of real crisis. There was recognition of the need for more hands on deck during the pandemic. That need hasn't gone away and in many areas has worsened significantly.

As the impact of the pandemic lessens a little, we still have a crisis in maternity services. Demands continue to rise and we have a serious midwife shortage that is worsening by the month,” said Alice Sorby, Director for Employment Relations at the RCM. “We need to remove any barriers that stop people coming back because we need them in our maternity services right now to help offset these serious midwife shortages. We know many have done it during the pandemic and will continue if this rule is removed. Scrapping the rule will be a win for midwives, for the NHS and ultimately for women, babies, and their families.”

The RCM has continued to press for the removal of the rule since the first extension early in the pandemic. The College also wrote to Steve Barclay the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in July this year. In the letter the RCM asked for an extension of the suspension for another 12 months and argued for the Government to consider removing the rules permanently. This is now bearing fruit with the consultation announcement and the RCM will be responding to it.

“We will be making a strong case in our response about the benefits the suspension of the rules has brought and why there is a compelling case to scrap them completely,” said Alice Sorby.

Midwives and members of the public can also respond to the consultation which is open until 12 September. For more information and a link to the consultation visit Consultation launched on NHS pension changes to boost winter workforce - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

See also COVID-19 guidance on support for retired members | NHSBSA.

See also Upcoming NHS pension changes will affect retired staff who come back to work in the NHS (rcm.org.uk)

See also RCM welcomes pension contribution increase delay but says ‘inflation busting’ pay award is needed

For more information about NHS pensions see the pensions section of the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/supporting/pensions/.