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Firefighters 1992 scheme
Need to know

Rights of appeal

If a Scheme member, or a dependant, is dissatisfied with a decision made by a fire and rescue authority (or the failure to make a decision) there are rights of appeal available. There are provisions for medical appeal if a person is dissatisfied with a medical opinion upon which a determination of award is based and a right of appeal to Crown Court against an authority's decision of entitlement to, or amount of, an award. There are also rights of appeal available under Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures (IDRP) based on the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995.

Looking at the medical appeal route first, if an authority are considering whether or not to make an award of an ill-health pension to a firefighter (or to allow early payment of a deferred pension on health grounds), they must obtain the written opinion of an independent qualified medical practitioner as to whether the person is permanently disabled for the duties of his/her role and, if so, whether he/she would be capable of any other regular employment. They must notify the firefighter of their decision as to award and supply a copy of the medical opinion upon which it is based. If the firefighter is dissatisfied with the award and believes the problem lies in the medical opinion, then he/she can appeal against the opinion to a Board of Medical Referees arranged by the Secretary of State. A similar appeal process applies if an ill-health award is reviewed and the person is dissatisfied with the outcome.

If the grievance of the member, a dependant, or a pension credit member, is with a decision made by the fire and rescue authority rather than the opinion of the medical practitioner, or is in respect of a non-medical aspect of the medical practitioner's opinion he/she can ask the authority to reconsider their decision and, failing satisfaction, may appeal to Crown Court.

The "reconsideration" mentioned above is usually made in accordance with the two-stage IDRP process. A fire and rescue authority will nominate a person to consider appeals at Stage One: this will normally be the Chief Fire Officer or a representative named by the Chief Fire Officer. The appellant would submit an appeal in writing, it will be considered by the Stage One decision-maker, and a written decision given to the appellant. If the appellant remains dissatisfied with the determination at Stage One, he/she can move to Stage Two by submitting an appeal in writing to the fire and rescue authority. (The authority will probably delegate the decision-making role to a separate committee). The grievance will be considered and a written response made.

Full details of medical appeal procedures, the IDRP process, Crown Court appeals, and the relevant time limits can be supplied by your fire and rescue authority.

The pensions advisory service ("TPAS")

TPAS is available at any time to assist occupational pension scheme members and beneficiaries in connection with any pension’s query they may have or any difficulty which they have failed to resolve with their pension scheme administrators. TPAS cannot enforce pension’s action but, if felt appropriate, could recommend a person to put his/her case to the Pensions Ombudsman.

They can be contacted at:

11, Belgrave Road,
London,
SW1V 1RB

Telephone: 0845 6012923

Website: www.opas.org.uk

The pensions ombudsman

The Pensions Ombudsman can investigate a pension scheme member's complaint of maladministration or a dispute of fact or law between a scheme member and pension scheme managers or employer. However, the Ombudsman cannot help if court proceedings have begun in respect of the dispute or if an appeal has been made to the Medical Appeal Board under the FPS.

The Ombudsman will expect the case to have first been put through IDRP. Also, a complainant who writes to the Ombudsman direct will normally be requested to have the case dealt with initially by the Pensions Advisory Service.

The Pensions Ombudsman can be contacted at:

11, Belgrave Road,
London,
SW1V 1RB

Telephone: 020 7834 9144

Website: www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

The pensions regulator

The Pensions Regulator is a regulatory body which came into existence on 6 April 2005 having been set up under the Pensions Act 2004. (It replaced the earlier Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority.) It ensures that pension scheme members' interests are protected and that schemes comply with the law.

It deals with issues about pension schemes as a whole. Normally it would expect a scheme member with a personal grievance to seek resolution through the Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures, the Pensions Advisory Service and the Pensions Ombudsman.

The Pensions Regulator can be contacted at:

Napier House,
Trafalgar Place
Brighton
BN1 4DW

Telephone: 0870 6063636

Website: www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk

Inter - relationship with the state pension scheme

State Basic Retirement Pension and "modification" of FPS pensions

You accrue entitlement to the State Basic Retirement Pension (the "Old Age Pension") completely separately from the FPS but there is a historical relationship between the two schemes through "modification".

On 5 July 1948, a remodelled State Pension was introduced. To avoid an element of duplication of benefits, firefighters subsequently paid a "modified" (reduced) contribution to the FPS and, when they retired, their FPS pension was "modified". The reduction to pension was £1.70 for each year of service up to a maximum of £51 a year. Over the years, the non-duplication aspect lost its significance and modification ceased on 31 March 1980. Consequently, modification of benefits will apply only in respect of service accrued before that date. Any firefighter who joined the FPS on or after 1 April 1980 will not have modification applied to his/her pension.

State Earnings Related Pension Scheme

The State Earnings Related Pension Scheme ("SERPS") was introduced on 6 April 1978. It provided an earnings-related second tier element to the State Basic Retirement Pension. Occupational pension schemes that could guarantee to offer benefits at least as good as SERPS were allowed to "contract out". The FPS became such a scheme. FPS members were allowed to pay the lower, contracted-out rate of National Insurance. The guaranteed element of pension is called a "Guaranteed Minimum Pension" ("GMP"). This is notified to the pension scheme administrator by the National Insurance Contributions Office. The pension scheme administrator must then ensure that the scheme pension paid to the member or spouse or civil partner meets the guaranteed level.

Another feature of the GMP is that, at State pension age, the State takes over full or partial responsibility for paying Pensions Increase on that portion of a contracted-out occupational pension which is equivalent to the GMP.

With effect from 6 April 1997 the terms under which pension schemes could contract out were changed. A contracted-out pension scheme simply had to guarantee that at least 90% of its members would receive benefits equivalent to or better than those set out in a reference scheme test defined by the Department for Work and Pensions. There was no longer a guarantee on an individual basis. GMPs do not apply to benefits accrued on and from 6 April 1997.

State Second Pension

SERPS was replaced by the State Second Pension (also known as "S2P") on 6 April 2002. Like SERPS this provides a second tier element of State retirement benefits on top of the State Basic Retirement Pension. As with SERPS, the FPS is contracted out of S2P. Consequently, while a member of the FPS you will not be contributing to S2P.

State Graduated Pension Scheme

The State Graduated Scheme ran from 3 April 1961 to 5 April 1975. It was like an early version of S2P or SERPS but contracting out was on an individual basis rather than applying to the whole scheme. Contracted-out members paid a lower level of Graduated Pension contribution to the State and had assurances regarding the level of benefits payable from their pension scheme.

State Pension Scheme forecasts

As you can see from the very brief outline given above, the State Pension Scheme rules can be quite complicated and will vary from person to person. However, you can request a forecast of your State Retirement Pension from the State Pension Forecasting Team of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Team can be contacted at:

State Pension Forecasting Team

Future Pension Centre
The Pension Service
Tyneview Park
Whitely Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1BA

Telephone: 0845 3000 168

Website: www.thepensionservice.gov.uk

Divorce or dissolution of civil partnership - the effect on pension rights

In the event of divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, annulment or judicial separation, a court may order a pension scheme to pay all or part of a member's benefit entitlement to his/her former spouse or civil partner. This could be in accordance with an "earmarking" order or a "pension sharing" order.

An earmarking order could apply to all or part of your retirement pension, potential lump sum, or possibly your death grant. If you have already retired, the order may require immediate payment of pension to your former spouse or civil partner. If you are an active or deferred member the order would not have effect until the benefits become payable.

A pension sharing order would have immediate effect. The court would instruct that a percentage of the value of your benefits should be deducted to provide "pension credit rights" for your former spouse or civil partner. The pension credit rights would remain in the FPS until he/she is eligible to draw them at age 60 (or put into immediate payment if he/she has already reached that age); they cannot be transferred to another pension arrangement. If a pension credit member dies before age 60, a death grant would be paid to his or her personal representatives.

The court will normally expect both parties to provide information about the current and prospective value of their pension rights together with the rules of the pension scheme(s) in which those rights are held. Your authority's pension’s administrator can provide this for you and can give you general information on the impact divorce/dissolution may have on pension rights.