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Public Sector

1. I want to buy back service under a public service scheme - I find it difficult to get information, understand the terms and conditions etc. Who can I talk to?
Firstly, confirm with your pension administrator that you are entitled to buy back years and, most importantly, all of the conditions, costs and benefits involved. This is vitally important as it is likely that you may never look at this issue again until you retire at which time it could be too late to make any adjustments. Many complaints received by the Pensions Ombudsman result in the complainant accepting, usually reluctantly, that they did not fully understand some of the decisions they made many years ago.  It can be quite difficult to assemble all the details on past service, possibly due to having worked in many areas, broken service due to marriage/raising a family, career breaks, part-time working, temporary working etc. However, you must get confirmation from each of your previous employers of your exact employment record.

2. I am retiring from the public service and have been asked to pay a large amount from my lump sum in respect of a Spouses' & Childrens' Pension Scheme. Do I have to pay it?
Yes. You cannot get any benefit (or potential benefit) under any pension scheme if you do not make the appropriate contributions. Unfortunately some public bodies when allowing previous service to be reckoned for pension purposes, only advised on the deductions to be made from current salary in respect of the main pension scheme and assumed that contributions in respect of the Spouses' and Childrens' Pension Scheme should be deducted at retirement. Moreover, when advising on likely final pension benefits when someone was thinking of retiring early or on other grounds, they often did not advise of deductions that would be due in respect of the Spouses' and Childrens' Pension Scheme. The Pensions Ombudsman has tried to ensure that for the future, such employees will be given the option of making such deductions from current salary so that final benefits do not attract further deductions. However, where the contributions are still unpaid at retirement, they must be paid then.

3. If I work more than 40 years, why should I carry on paying into the pension fund / Spouses & Childrens as I can only get a pension based on 40 years service?
Pension contributions must be made while in employment even if the service is not reckonable for pension purposes. In general, however, contributions to Spouses' and Children's schemes are limited to 40 years. If you, on retirement have been a member for more than 40 years, the earliest contributions to the Spouses & Children's Scheme may be refunded. Contact your Superannuation regarding this possibility.

4. I am a single person in the public service and I don't want to contribute to a Spouses' & Childrens' scheme. Can I opt out?
NO. Membership of the spouses' and children's schemes in the public service is now compulsory, regardless of your present marital status. If you retire unmarried, a benefit would still be paid under the scheme if you married subsequently and were survived by a spouse. The scheme also covers children born outside marriage.

5. I am a pensioner and my pension usually increases in line with the pay for my former job, but recently I have not received the benefit of some increases paid to my serving colleagues. Why?
While it has been customary for many years to adjust pensions in payment in line with general pay increases paid to serving staff in the public service, not all increases are passed on to pensioners. In particular, increases arising as a result of productivity deals are not passed on, and sometimes allowances of different kinds, which were not formerly pensioned, are made pensionable, again as a result of IR negotiations.  Likewise, these are not reflected in the pensions of those already retired. However, the Minister for Finance in his 2010 Budget speech indicated that linking pensions to current rates of pay was likely to cease in the future, with some other mechanism to be devised for increasing pensions.

6. My pension is co-ordinated with the State Pension. I am due to retire at 60, but the State Pension is not paid until 65.
Generally in the Public Service a supplementary pension is paid if you do not qualify, immediately, or qualify in full, for a State Pension. This will cease or reduce, as appropriate, when the State Pension comes into payment.

7. I left public service employment many years ago, but was entitled to a preserved pension. It was not co-ordinated with State Pension. I re-entered as a new entrant and my pension is now co-ordinated. What will happen to my old preserved pension?
On re-entry into public service employment, it is usually possible to transfer previous service into the scheme of the current employer. When such a transfer is made, and the receiving scheme is one where the benefits are integrated or co-ordinated with State pensions, the previous service, even if it wasn’t co-ordinated in the old scheme, will be co-ordinated in the receiving scheme – it is the service, not the benefit, that is transferable. It may well be that the member is overall better off to transfer, even if previous service becomes co-ordinated as a result. Typically this would be so if the earlier service was given in a lower grade, as will frequently be the case, as the pension at retirement in respect of the old service will be based on pay for the new grade. However, members of most public service schemes do not have to transfer the service, but may continue on with the preserved benefit under the old scheme, and clock up only current and future service in the new one.