Following the introduction in July 2000, of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, the RFU submitted claims on behalf of their members for equal treatment with whole-time regular firefighters on their terms and conditions of service, including pension benefits. Subsequently, submissions by the Fire Brigades Union were submitted in November 2000.
After an extremely long and drawn-out legal process, it was finally agreed that ‘Retained Firefighters’ were under the legal definition, ‘Part-time Workers’, and therefore entitled to access to the 1992 Firefighters’
Pension Scheme plus compensation was required to cover certain terms and conditions.
Those individuals that would be eligible to purchase pension rights under the terms of the new pension arrangements are those individuals that were employed as a retained firefighter between 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006.
The pension scheme will be referred to as the ‘Modified’ Pension Scheme of which the key terms of the pension arrangements are:
- a uniform accrual rate of 1/45th
- a Normal Pension Age of 55 years
- a deferred pension age of 60 years
- fixed commutation factors to reflect the commutation rates in the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 1992 that are applicable on the day before the amending legislation is made
- the contribution rate payable will be calculated at the rate applicable to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 1992 in respect of the period of service being purchased (i.e. for service before 1 April 2012 the contribution rate will be 11% of pay; for service from 1 April 2012, it will be the relevant tiered contribution rate)
- a death grant of two times pensionable pay
- a time limited retrospective death grant of 2.5 times pensionable pay in respect of those who would have been eligible to be members if they had not died before 6 April 2006
- an opportunity for eligible members to purchase additional pensionable service in 45ths
- the ability for eligible members to convert existing New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2006 service to the proposed new pension arrangements
- the transfer of external pension benefits into the proposed new pension arrangements will be in accordance with the terms of the New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2006
- ill-health pension arrangements, lower and higher tier, will be in accordance with the terms of the New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2006
- the abatement of a member’s pension will be in accordance with the terms of the New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2006
- any member who subsequently opts out of the proposed new pension arrangements will not be permitted to re-join those arrangements.
While the modified scheme has obvious benefits for those eligible to join there is one major drawback that needs to be highlighted. Previously all retained firefighters employed at an earlier date than 6 April 2006, and medically retired as a consequence of suffering a qualifying injury, had a protected right to injury awards calculated on a whole-time basis. The historic reason for this was the lack of access to a pension scheme and, therefore, access to an ill-health pension for retained firefighters. Now all retained firefighters employed between 1 July 2000 and 6 April 2006 are being provided with access to a pension scheme for that period.
The RFU was consulted on the new arrangements and took the opportunity in our response to submit a compelling point of view against the removal of the existing protected rights, citing the fact that an On-Call employee injured on duty could be in the unenviable position of losing not only their FRS employment but their primary employment as well if the injury sustained was serious enough to render them unfit to continue to work. On-Call firefighters alone face this additional risk and for some the risk might be seen as one not worth taking, with damaging effects on recruitment and retention.
Despite our arguments we regret to say that the government decided that it is no longer appropriate to continue to provide these members with injury awards based on a whole-time comparator, whilst part-time regular and retained firefighters employed after 6 April 2006 receive injury awards on a pro-rata basis.
Therefore, this protected right has been revoked and, in future, all retained firefighters will receive injury awards on a pro-rata basis in the same way as other part-time firefighters and retained firefighters employed on or after 6 April 2006. The revocation of this protected right will not affect those former retained firefighters currently in receipt of injury and ill-health pensions.
The modified pension scheme came into being on 01 April 2014 and all Fire Authorities in England will soon be writing to all eligible members past and present to inform them of their eligibility and provide individual figures for the member to determine whether or not to become a member of the modified scheme. We will update members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland once we are in receipt of the proposals for these Fire Authorities.
There will be various opportunities for eligible members dependent on personal circumstances for example to buy back pension service to 01 July 2000 and/or transfer from the 2006 pension scheme into the modified scheme. The finer details are contained here.
Our on-line survey published last week is still open and if you haven’t already given your opinion on how to overcome R&R issues within the RDS then this is your opportunity.
The survey is anonymous so responses won’t be attributed to any individuals.
Feedback so far has been very interesting and when the survey finally closes we will publish a report on the findings later this year.
You can take the survey now via the link.
National General Secretary