It may be that you work, or are about to commence work, at a medical school (see note below) and are eligible for membership of either USS or the NHS Pension Scheme (NHSPS). This section will provide you with more information on this matter in light of a recent change in the law which requires your employer to automatically enrol you into membership of a pension scheme in certain circumstances – often referred to as auto-enrolment,
I already work at a medical school and am an active member of either USS or NHSPS. How am I affected?
As you are already in a pension scheme – either USS or NHSPS – your employer will not need to take any action because of their auto-enrolment duties. You will remain an active member of that scheme.
I already work at a medical school but am not a member of either USS or NHSPS. How am I affected?
If you are not already a member of either of these schemes, then (assuming you are an eligible jobholder) you will need to be auto-enrolled into one of these schemes on the date on which you become an eligible jobholder (most likely your employer’s staging or automatic re-enrolment date). When determining the appropriate pension scheme, your employer will need to consider not only its auto-enrolment requirements, but also the rules of both of the schemes.
It may be that you joined USS when your employment commenced and have subsequently opted out. Given that you are not a member of a pension scheme, your employer may need to auto-enrol you into a scheme on their staging or automatic re-enrolment date. If you have previously opted out of USS (and did not subsequently join NHSPS), then on your employer’s staging date or automatic re-enrolment date, you would be auto-enrolled back into USS.
For more information on joining USS after opting out, please see the answer to ‘I have previously opted out of the scheme, or elected not to join, and remained in eligible employment, will I be affected by auto-enrolment?’ further up the page for more information.
Alternatively, you may have joined NHSPS upon commencing employment (or you may have joined NHSPS after opting out of USS) and have since opted out of NHSPS. If this is the case then you will not be allowed to join USS, as it is not permitted by the scheme rules. Please contact your employer to obtain further information on the NHSPS rules which apply in this situation, which is referred to in the answer to ‘Are there any situations in which I may be prevented from becoming a member, or continuing in membership, of either USS or NHSPS?’ below.
I am about to start, or have recently started, work at a medical school. How am I affected?
Your new employer will need to enrol you into a scheme when you commence employment. In order to fulfil their auto-enrolment duties, an employer must use a scheme which meets certain criteria – one of these criteria is that the employee must not be required to take any action in order to become an active member of the scheme. In order to join NHSPS (as their rules currently stand) you would need to apply for membership, and so our understanding is that NHSPS do not meet this requirement. Therefore, if you fit into this group then your employer is required to enrol you into USS.
However, it may be the case that you wish to join the NHSPS in respect of this new post. If this is the case you will need to speak to your employer to check if you are eligible for NHSPS under the terms of the direction (see note below). If you are eligible then you will need to apply for membership of the NHSPS within three months of commencing employment and you would also need to opt out of USS.
You should bear in mind that in limited circumstances in the following question, below, you may be prevented from becoming a member, or continuing in membership, of USS or NHSPS either now or at some point in the future.
Are there any situations where I may be prevented from becoming a member, or continuing in membership, of either USS or NHSPS?
There are very limited circumstances in which this may be the case and it is likely that this will apply to a very small number of employees. If after commencing employment, you opt out of USS so that you may join NHSPS, at a later point in your employment it may be the case that you are required to cease active membership of NHSPS, for example if you reach the 40 year service limit or if your membership runs out under a time-limited direction (your employer will be able to give you details of such a direction). If you are an eligible jobholder, you employer will need to auto-enrol you into a pension arrangement.
If this scenario applies to you then your employer is not able to enrol you into USS as it is prevented from doing so by the scheme rules, which state that an individual cannot join USS if he/she has previously elected to remain an NHSPS member. However the rules also prevent your employer from contributing to another pension scheme on your behalf – this is known as exclusivity – meaning that if no allowances were made, your employer would have no way of fulfilling any auto-enrolment duties which may apply. Therefore the trustee board has agreed to waive exclusivity, meaning that in these limited circumstances your employer can enrol you into an alternative scheme in order to fulfil its duties and to ensure that you are auto-enrolled into a suitable pension arrangement.
If you think that you may be affected then please contact your employer for further details.
Note on HS directions and medical schools
If your employer is a medical school, it will fall under what is known as an NHS direction – a legal document which outlines that certain employees are eligible to join NHSPS. Generally, directions state that in order to be eligible to join NHSPS, you must (i) have been entitled to participate in NHSPS in a previous employment, (ii) have commenced your new employment within 12 months of leaving that previous employment, or still be continuing in said employment. However, you will need to check these terms with your employer.
Those wishing to join NHSPS must apply in writing within three months of starting the new employment.
Medical schools, which are defined by the directions described above, are generally part of a university or college at which instruction is given only to medical or dental students, including any post graduate institutes for medical or dental research. Your employer will be able to confirm whether your employment comes under a direction.
It is worth mentioning that all of the above information is based upon our understanding of the current rules of NHSPS. It may be the case that NHSPS seeks to make changes in the future in order to enable employers to use it as an auto-enrolment scheme.