Upcoming NHS pension changes will affect retired staff who come back to work in the NHS

By Colin Beesley on 23 June 2022 Midwifery Midwives Pensions Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change Midwife Shortage

Midwives who retire and return from the 1995 section of the NHS Pension scheme in England and Wales will in the future benefit from changes to the 16hr rule. It has been agreed that the process to permanently remove that rule be started. The 16hr rule prevented those between 55 and 60 in the 1995 section returning to work on more than 16 hrs in the first month. The rule had been paused during the pandemic and it was strongly felt that there was no real justification for it continuing once emergency COVID changes are removed.

There is less appetite however to permanently remove the abatement rule which prevents 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 pause in the abatement rule through the pandemic has allowed those experienced midwives to work more hours to support workforce shortages.

The RCM, together with the other health unions have strongly argued that the current workforce crisis is set to continue and that there should be further consideration to the permanent removal of the abatement rule. Directors and heads of midwifery have told the RCM that their services have only been able to continue safely thanks to those who have worked over the hours abatement rules would ordinarily allow.  

“Both of the rules should be scrapped so that midwives can come back into the NHS without fear of seeing their pension take a significant hit. We are in the middle of a staffing crisis not only because of the pandemic but from years of under-investment in NHS maternity services and staff. The Government should be doing everything possible to bring retired midwives back to the NHS, not re-introducing pension rules that do the opposite,” said Lynne Galvin, Regional Head for the North of England, and the RCM’s lead on pension issues. “The RCM and other health unions are still in talks with the Government on removing the abatement rule and will be pressing them hard on the many sensible reasons why both these rules should go. It makes sense for the Government, and it makes sense for maternity services. It will help retired staff and it will help their colleagues struggling every day to continue providing safe and high-quality maternity care, which is what we all want to see.”

Pension contributions are set to increase in October. This increase was originally set to come into effect in April this year but was challenged by the RCM and other unions, who are now calling for this to be deferred again to April 2023. You can see the Government’s consultation response here that outlines the new tiers

The pushing back of pension contribution increases was to help NHS staff cope with rising prices and inflation. A recommendation on pay for Agenda for Change staff from the NHS pay Review Body is also expected soon. The RCM is calling for an inflation busting pay rise to offset the higher pension contributions and the rapidly rising cost of living.

“Any pay award must not only offset the significant increase in inflation and rising costs but must also cover the rise in pension contributions. If it does not our members are going to see a significant hole in their finances and will be considerably worse off than they were before. This is a situation that will cause many of them a great deal of distress and hardship and the Government in England must take this into account when they look at NHS staff pay,” said Alice Sorby, Director of Employment relations at the RCM.

To read the RCM's pensions consultation response (including information about the changes being introduced that the RCM supports) in full visit rcm-response-to-nhs-pensions-contribution-consultation-converted.pdf.

See also an earlier news story on NHS pension issues at 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/.