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The six largest public service pension schemes in the UK – the schemes for the Armed Forces, the Civil Service, NHS, Teachers, Police and Firefighters (which operate on a pay-as-you-go basis) and the Local Government Pension Scheme (which is funded) are statutory defined benefit (DB) pension schemes (i.e. they provide pension benefits based on salary and length of service).

These schemes were reformed under the Public Service Pensions Act 2013. Key features of the new schemes included:

  • pension benefits based on Career Average Revalued Earnings (CARE).
  • a pension age linked to the State Pension age for teachers, local government, NHS and the civil service; a pension age of 60 for members of the schemes for the police, firefighters and armed forces.

Active members of the schemes prior to April 2015 were transferred onto the new schemes, except for those covered by transitional protection for those ‘closest to retirement.’ A different approach was taken with the Local Government Pension Scheme, where a new scheme was introduced in 2014 and transitional protection provided by means of an ‘underpin’. For more detail, see Public service pensions: the 2015 reforms, Commons Library Briefing Paper CBP 5678.

The transitional protection arrangements were found by the Court of Appeal in 2018 to constitute unlawful age discrimination in relation to firefighters and judges. The Government has consulted on a remedy to address this and intends to bring forward primary legislation to implement this and to move all active scheme members to the reformed schemes from 1 April 2022.

The aim of this note is to provide the facts and figures on public service pensions and sources of additional information.


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