Leaving the Scheme
You can opt out of the FPS 2015 at any time if you do not wish to be a member. To do so, you must give a signed, written notice to the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS). The option would be considered to have been exercised on the date the notice is received by the FRS.
If you opt out before the end of 3 months' continuous Scheme employment (or within 3 months of automatic re-enrolment), you would be treated as not having been a member in pensionable employment during this period and would receive a refund of the contributions you have paid for the period.
If you opt out 3 months or more after a continuous period of service in Scheme employment (or 3 or more months after automatic re-enrolment), you would normally be treated as having ceased pensionable service in the Scheme on the first day of the pay period immediately after that in which you opted out. You would become a deferred member of the Scheme from that date and you would cease to have any further cover under the FPS 2015, other than that which is provided to a deferred member.
It is recommended that you seek Independent Financial Advice if you are thinking of opting out. Note that while you would save the cost of contributions, you will pay more by way of tax (as pension contributions attract tax relief), plus your dependants would cease to have pension cover.
You would, however, continue to be covered by the provisions of the Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme in the event of a qualifying injury.
Refund of Contributions
If you leave the FPS 2015 with less than 3 months qualifying service and without an entitlement to any other benefit under the FPS 2015, you may be entitled to the return of your pension contributions under the FPS 2015, less the adjustment made for tax.
If you cease to be an active member of the Scheme before you become entitled to the payment of retirement benefits, and you have at least 3 months' qualifying service or have had a transfer value paid into your pension account from another occupational pension scheme, you would become a deferred member of the Scheme.
Your pension account will be closed and will contain your accrued earned pension and the relevant amount of index adjustment. Should you return to Scheme membership within the 5 years after leaving, your pension account would be re-instated as if you had remained in pensionable service during the break, but had received no pensionable pay for that period.
You would become eligible to draw your deferred benefits on age grounds at your deferred Pension Age, which is the same as your State Pension Age and may therefore change in the future (or age 65 if higher). If you have paid towards an added pension, the proportioned added pension amount, plus indexation under the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 will be transferred to your pension account and paid together with your deferred pension.
If you wish, you could give written notice to the FRS that you would like to receive your deferred pension at or after age 55 and before Deferred Pension Age. In these circumstances, however, the pension would be subject to an early retirement reduction based on factors provided by the Scheme Actuary.
Or if, before reaching Deferred Pension Age, you suffer from ill-health to the extent that you would be incapable of undertaking regular employment and this incapacity will continue at least until Deferred Pension Age, you could request early payment of the deferred pension on ill-health grounds. The decision as to entitlement would be made by the FRS after they have considered the written opinion of an Independent Qualified Medical Practitioner.
If awarded on ill-health grounds, your entitlement to the early payment would be kept under review by the FRS until you reach Deferred Pension Age. Should the FRS consider that you had become capable of undertaking regular employment, payment of the pension would cease. If the pension continues in payment, no further review would be required once you attain Deferred Pension Age. If your pension is suspended after review, it would be restored at your Deferred Pension Age.
Transferring your Benefits
If you leave employment you can ask for your pension rights to be offered in the form of a transfer value to another pension arrangement. A transfer value is calculated by working out the value of deferred benefits and applying actuarial factors. In effect it is the value of your pension rights expressed as a lump sum. You should compare the offer of benefits the Cash Equivalent Transfer Value would purchase in the new scheme with any alternative benefits in the FPS 2015 before making your decision about transferring pension rights.
The above principles would also apply in respect of a transfer of pension rights to FRSs in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, if you leave employment with one Welsh FRS to transfer to another, where you remain a member of FPS 2015, different transfer arrangements will apply. No transfer payment would be made. Your former authority will provide you with a certificate setting out the entries in your pension accounts held by them and give details of your period of pensionable employment. This would be done automatically if there is no break between your employments. If there has been a break in pensionable service, but not exceeding 5 years, the certificate would be provided at your request. You must give the certificate to your new authority so that they can transfer the details to your new pension account with them.
Special arrangements apply if you hold more than one employment with either or both authorities; you may have to choose from which account, or to which account, the details should be transferred. Your new authority would explain this to you.
If the break in pensionable service is 5 years or more, you would retain your deferred pension account with your previous authority – a transfer to a new active account would not be possible. But if you had an added pension account, it may be possible to transfer the entries in that account to your new employment.
Be certain that you understand the effect of the transfer of pension rights e.g. the type and amount of pension the transfer will 'buy' in the receiving scheme or arrangement, and the terms under which you can draw it.