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How to reclaim NHS pension

We've updated this guide on 6th October 2021

You can sometimes reclaim your NHS pension when you’ve been paying into the scheme but decide to opt-out. You can also reclaim it when you leave the NHS.

When you start working for the NHS, you’re automatically enrolled. The amount that you pay into the pension depends on how much you earn. Take a look at this table to see what you’ll likely be contributing:

SalaryRate that you pay in
£26,824 – £47,84512.5%
£47,846 – £70,63012.5%
££70,631 – £111,37613.5%

Reclaim NHS pension – how does it work?

There are three pension schemes to be aware of:

  • 1995 pension scheme
  • 2008 pension scheme
  • 2015 pension scheme

If you are part of either the 1995 or 2008 scheme, you’re allowed to claim a refund if you’ve been at the NHS for two years or less. You’ll also have to accept a refund if you take a 12-month break from service, or longer. 

If you’re part of the 2015 pension scheme, this period is a little longer. If you take a break for five years or more, you’ll be obliged to accept a pension refund. 

Can I avoid reclaiming NHS pension?

Yes, you can. 

If you’ve left the company for either 12 months or 5 years (depending on which scheme you were enrolled onto), there are ways that you can avoid being removed from the pension scheme. This can be as a result of temporary work, long term illness, training and more:  

  • Keep paying pension contributions when you’re on maternity leave
  • Return to an NHS role during the 12 month/5 year period – but remember that agency work will not qualify you for the pension scheme
  • Transfer your benefits to another scheme
  • Get approval to avoid a break in service from training, work or even illness 

Am I eligible?

If you’ve worked for the NHS for longer than two years, you’re unfortunately not eligible to apply to reclaim your NHS pension contributions. If you worked there for less than two years but you transferred a personal pension or retirement annuity contract over, you are also not eligible. 

You will need to be younger than the pension age and you can apply immediately after leaving the NHS.

You can also apply if you’re choosing to opt-out of the scheme whilst working there.

How to apply 

Once you’ve left the NHS, you’ll be able to apply for a pension refund straight away.

If you don’t apply, the pension agency will get in contact with you once you’ve been on a break long enough to disqualify you from the scheme.

Be aware that if your contribution is less than £20,000, you’ll be taxed on it at 20%. On anything more than £20,000, you’ll be taxed at 50%. 

To read more about pensions and how they are taxed, take a look at our guides.

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