What does it mean for your NHS Pension Scheme benefits and contributions?
From 1st April 2008 a member who decides to take a period of authorised leave (i.e including a career break where they retain their contract of employment), they can choose to have this time as pensionable for a period of up to 6 months.
Where you choose to make this 6 months pensionable - employer and employee contributions must continue during this 6 month period continuously.
Therefore the first thing to think about before taking your career break is to make arrangements to have your pension contributions to continue throughout the time you have off.
Where your pay is reduced or suspended, your pension contributions will be based upon your pensionable pay immediately prior to your break starting.
It is entirely voluntary whether you continue to contribute to your NHS Pension plan. If you choose not to your last day of Scheme membership will be the day before your career break commences.
In addition, from 1st October 2008, further flexibility was introduced in that you can continue to pay contributions for a further 18 months (making it 24 months in total). However for the additional 18 month period you will become responsible for both employee AND employer pension contributions. This additional period of contributions is only available if you have been contributing continuously in the first 6 months.
The facility to pension authorised leave does not apply to locum practitioners.
You should apply in the first instance to your employer if you would like to take a career break. However all the decision on whether you are allowed a career break or not is up to your employer - the choice on whether to continue pension contributions (and the employer continue making contributions) is down to you.
The maximum time limit for a career break where you can continue to make NHS pension contributions is 2 years (although under the terms and conditions of your employment you can take a career break of up to 5 years).
You will be entitled to 'death in membership' benefits during the period of up to 2 years providing you continue to contribute to the scheme.