The UK government’s coronavirus action plan sets out measures to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. This included measures to increase the available health and social care workforce by allowing recently retired NHS staff and social care workers to return to work and tackle the outbreak.
From 25 March 2020 to 25 March 2022, section 45 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 suspended some regulations to allow retired or partially retired NHS staff to return to work or increase their working commitments without having their pension benefits suspended or reduced (known as abatement). The Department of Health and Social Care then extended the temporary ‘retire and return’ easements until 31 October 2022.
Following a public consultation which ran from 28 August to 12 September 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced the temporary ‘retire and return’ easements will be extended further:
- abatement of special class status members who retire and return to work between age 55 to 60 will be suspended to 31 March 2025
- abatement of draw-down members of the 2008 Section and 2015 Scheme will be suspended to 31 March 2023
The 16-hour rule will be permanently removed from 1 April 2023.
Removal of the 16-hour rule
Under the changes being introduced to NHS Pension Scheme regulations on 1 April 2023, if you decide to re-join the NHS, you’ll be able to work as many hours as you choose straightaway.
Currently, the 1995 Section rules limit members to working 16 hours a week in the first month after retirement to avoid their pension payments being affected. The 16-hour rule has been suspended since 25 March 2020 and this suspension is due to continue to 31 March 2023.
The DHSC is permanently removing this rule from 1 April 2023. This will mean that, as long as you’ve had a break of 24 hours from your previous job, you’ll be able to move to a new employment contract and start building 2015 benefits immediately.
As the DHSC is removing the 16-hour rule, they’re also changing the 1995 Section regulations to remove the 16-hour rule for members with more than one employment. Members with more than one employment will need to take a 24 hour break from all employments to be able to claim their pension.
Temporary suspension of abatement for special class status holders in the 1995 Section
This temporarily removes a barrier which stops special class nurses and mental health officers aged 55 to 60 years old, who have claimed their pension benefits, from returning to work without having their pension suspended
The abatement rules also apply to people who have retired on:
- ill health grounds
- in the interests of the efficiency of the service (IES)
They also apply to a limited number of people who have retired on redundancy grounds.
These measures do not suspend the abatement rules that apply to these groups.
Temporary suspension of abatement in the 2008 Section and 2015 Scheme
This is where a person has elected to ‘draw down’ a portion of their benefits and subsequently wishes to increase their earnings or commitment to the NHS so that they are in excess of 90% of the level before draw down was taken.
These measures do not suspend the abatement rules that apply to members who have retired on ill health grounds or in the interests of efficiency of the service (IES), alongside a limited number of members who have retired on redundancy grounds.
What we’re doing to support you
In February 2022 we contacted all pensioner members who have:
- retired and returned to work
- chosen to draw down part of their benefits
This was to tell them that the temporary retire and return easements were being extended to 31 October 2022.
You can read the full consultation outcome on the Department of Health and Social Care’s website.