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Firefighters 2006 scheme

Opting out

If you do not want to be a member of FPS2006 you can opt out at any time by giving written notice to your fire and rescue authority. The notice would take effect from the start of the following pay period.

If you have less than 3 months' qualifying service at the time the notice takes effect, you would normally receive a refund of the contributions you have paid. These would be repaid by your employer.

If you have 3 months' or more qualifying service you would have a choice of:

  • a transfer of accrued pension rights to another pension arrangement, or
  • a deferred pension.

You would cease to have any further cover under FPS2006 (other than that provided by any deferred pension). You would, however, continue to be covered by the provisions of the Compensation Scheme.

If you subsequently change your mind and wish to rejoin, you can do so provided that:

  • you have less than 40 years' pensionable service in FPS2006 at that time
  • you have not opted out on more than one occasion, and
  • if your fire and rescue authority so require, you undergo a medical examination at your own expense to satisfy them of your good health.

Your election to rejoin would take effect from the start of the following pay period.

Seek independent financial advice if you are thinking about opting-out of the FPS2006. You would save the cost of contributions but would probably pay more by way of tax (contributions attract tax relief). You and your dependants would cease to have the cover the FPS2006 provides.

You will be automatically opted back in to the scheme on your Fire and Rescue Authorities auto enrolment re-enrolment date. If you are either re-enrolled or choose to opt back in to the scheme you may join the FPS2015 and not the FPS2006 scheme, depending on your protection status.

Fire 2006 opt-out forms

Deferred pension

If you leave FPS2006 (either because you cease to be a firefighter or because you opt out of the Scheme) having sufficient service to qualify for a pension but not being eligible for immediate payment because you are not old enough nor retiring on grounds of ill-health, then you would be entitled to a deferred pension. This would be assessed on the basic formula, i.e.

annual pension = 1/60 x pensionable service x final pensionable pay

For example, a firefighter aged 27 who has completed 6 years' service and whose final pensionable pay is £25,000 would be entitled to a deferred pension of:

6/60 x £25,000 = £2,500 a year

As its name suggests, payment of a deferred pension would not be immediate. It would normally be put into payment at age 65. You could, however, request earlier payment from age 55. If your fire and rescue authority agree to the earlier payment then the pension would be paid right away but subject to a similar reduction as would apply in the case of a member-initiated early retirement pension. If the firefighter in the above example were to request payment of the pension at age 59, the reduction (on current rates) would be 5% for each of the 6 years early (i.e. before 65) that the pension is being paid. The firefighter would receive immediate payment of:

6/60 x £25,000 - (6 x 5%) = £2,500 - 30% = £2,500 - £750 = £1,750 a year

A firefighter entitled to a deferred pension who suffers permanent ill-health before it is due to come into payment, to the extent that he/she would be unable to undertake regular employment (i.e. a similar test to that which would decide if a serving firefighter would be eligible for a higher tier ill-health pension) can have the deferred pension put into immediate payment without reduction. (There would be no enhancement of service, however, as there would be in the case of the higher tier ill-health pension.)

Part of a deferred pension can be commuted to provide a lump sum if the firefighter wishes.

Transfer of pension rights out of scheme

If you leave FPS2006 having sufficient service to qualify for a pension but not being eligible for immediate payment because you are not old enough, nor retiring on grounds of ill-health, as an alternative to a deferred pension you could request that your pension rights should be transferred to some other pension arrangement. A transfer value, a sum representing the capital value of your pension rights, would be assessed in accordance with guidance provided by the Government Actuary and offered to the trustees or managers of your new pension scheme. The transfer would take place if you so instruct.

You may leave employment with your current fire and rescue authority to transfer to another authority where you remain a member of the FPS2006. (If the new employment is at a lower rate of pay, the split pension option would be available to you.) Although your pension rights will normally transfer with you, payments of transfer value are not exchanged between English fire and rescue authorities. However, a transfer value would be paid between an English authority and an authority in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland where different funding arrangements apply.

Rights of appeal

If a FPS2006 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.

The FPS2006 contains arrangements for Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures (“IDRP”) based on the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995. There are also provisions for medical appeal if a person is dissatisfied with a medical opinion upon which a determination of award is based.

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 first obtain the written opinion of an independent qualified medical practitioner (“IQMP”) 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. The authority must notify the firefighter of their decision as to award and supply a copy of the medical opinion upon which their determination is based.

If an FPS2006 member 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. (Before this stage, however, if the member provides new evidence of a medical nature and the member and the authority agree, the IQMP can be asked to review the medical opinion in the light of the new evidence.)

A similar process applies if an ill-health award is reviewed and the person is dissatisfied with the outcome.

If the grievance of the FPS2006 member, a dependant, or a pension credit member is with a decision made by the fire and rescue authority rather than with the content of a medical opinion, or is in respect of a non-medical aspect of the opinion, he/she can use IDRP to seek resolution. The grievance will be considered and a written response made.

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

The Pensions Advisory Service ("TPAS")

TPAS is an independent voluntary organisation which provides information and guidance on pension matters. They are available at any time to assist occupational pension scheme members and beneficiaries in connection with any pension query they may have or any difficulty which they have failed to resolve with pension scheme administrators. Their service is free. TPAS cannot enforce pensions action but, if felt appropriate, could recommend a person to put his/her case to the Pensions Ombudsman. They can be contacted at:

The Pensions Advisory Service,
11, Belgrave Road,
London, SW1V 1RB

Telephone helpline: 0300 123 1047
Website: www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

The Pension 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, under any of the FBS rules (1992/2006 or 2015).

The Ombudsman will expect the case to have first been put through Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures. 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:

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman,
11 Belgrave Road,
London, SW1V 1RB

Telephone: 020 7630 2200
Website: www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

The Pension 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 (replacing the earlier Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority). It ensures that pension scheme members' interests are protected and that schemes comply with the law.

For example, the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 includes requirements for the governance and administration of public service schemes (including FPS 1992, 2006 and 2015), and for oversight by The Pensions Regulator. Fire and rescue authorities must comply with The Pension Regulator's Code of Practice No.14 which sets out a framework for governance and administration.

At central level there must be a Scheme Advisory Board and at local level a Pension Board with responsibility for assisting the authority ("scheme manager") to comply with Scheme regulations and other legislation relating to the governance of the Scheme.

The Local Pension Board must have an equal number of employee and employer representatives, a minimum of 4 in total, 2 from each side. They must be conversant with the Scheme rules and have an understanding of the law relating to pensions. It is not a decision-making board although it can review decisions made under the Scheme rules.

At the time of writing this guide, some of the Pensions Regulator's requirements for the Firefighters' Pension Schemes are still in draft form, but your fire and rescue authority can keep you informed about local arrangements

The Pensions Regulator deals with issues about pension schemes as a whole. It does not deal with queries about an individual’s pension benefits but recommends that a person seeking free information and advice on all types of pensions should approach The Pensions Advisory Service.

Website: www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk