Police pensions FAQs

1. How did the new pension scheme come about?

In December 2011, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury as part of the coalition government, laid out plans to change public service pensions (link to speech), with the aim of saving money for the taxpayer. An increased cost of public service schemes to £32bn a year was behind the proposals, and they led the way to the introduction of the 2015 CARE Scheme.

 

2. What did the PFEW do to prevent the CARE pension scheme?

There was nothing the PFEW could do to prevent the scheme from being implemented. It was the only scheme proposed by the Government and was in line with the CARE schemes proposed for other public service workers. The Government is not required to negotiate with the PFEW on pension provision. It informed us of its proposal to introduce the scheme in 2012, as it needed a “long-term solution to the increasing costs of public service pensions that is fair to public servants and other taxpayers”.

We opposed its introduction and its application to existing officers, but it was introduced by the enactment of new primary legislation. The Government has the mandate to govern in the way it sees fit.

 

3. Why did the PFEW not challenge the Government?

The PFEW sought legal advice throughout the process and was advised that there were no grounds to successfully challenge the introduction of the new scheme.

All avenues regarding the legality of overall scheme introduction have been considered, including public law (judicial review); European law, human rights and discrimination.

A group of police officers decided to put in a legal challenge to the transitional protections in the 2015 CARE scheme. The PFEW has not followed this course because we are aware of the potential detrimental risks and because we believe that transitional protections are a good thing as we aim to achieve a positive outcome for as many of our members as possible.

In the judges’ Employment Tribunal (ET) ruling (link to our article published 17 January, 2017) it was found that the transitional protections in the judges’ scheme did not represent a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and were therefore discriminatory in protecting some members too well.

The subsequent ET ruling in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) case (link to FBU statement published 15 February, 2017) ruled, in their case, that while the transitional arrangements in the firefighters’ pensions were discriminatory, they were justifiable as they represented a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

 

4. Did you influence the scheme at all?

Yes. We ensured that:

  • Officers have the ability to retire at 55 from the CARE scheme (with their pension actuarially reduced from age 60).
  • There was an extension of those covered by full transitional protections and also those within four years of full protection received tapered protection, therefore avoiding a “cliff edge” scenario. This enabled more members to be covered than was the case in the Home Secretary’s initial proposal.

PFEW was in favour of transitional protections. Part of these protections have ensured that there is tapered protection for some of those officers  in the previous pension schemes, to avoid a “cliff edge” of protection – by which officers could miss out on being able to remain in the old schemes by just one day of service or by being born just one day later. This allows those officers to benefit from continued membership of their earlier scheme for longer.

More than half of members were able to either have full protection or tapered protection, while previously accrued rights were also protected for all officers with Police Pension Scheme (PPS) 1987 and/or New Police Pension Scheme (NPPS) 2006 service.

Unprotected members and those with tapered protection who transfer to and remain members of the new scheme also benefit from the application of ‘final final’ salary in the calculation of their accrued pension and members who were in the PPS 1987 also benefit from weighted accrual. More details can be found in previous FAQs on the CARE Scheme (published 27 March 2015) here.

 

5. What exactly did you do? Do you have a timeline?

We responded to the Home Secretary’s consultation, attended meetings and engaged in discussions to help influence the scheme to the benefit of our members. There is a timeline of events available here.

 

6. What does your original legal advice say?

We took legal advice on various aspects of the introduction of the new scheme.
Go to our YouTube channel to watch General Secretary Andy Fittes answer questions on our legal advice.

 

7. Why have you not published it? Who can see it?

We haven’t, and will not, publish the actual legal advice because it is subject to legal privilege. We have commissioned that advice so we don’t necessarily want other parties to see it – not because we have anything to hide but to try to prevent those working on behalf of other parties (i.e. other lawyers) being exposed to our position too early. This is standard practice and a common theme that public sector organisations and unions don’t publish their legal advice on public websites for instance. 

However, the full legal advice is available for Federation reps to read at Federation HQ in Leatherhead.  If you are a rep and want to read it please email gensec@polfed.org.

 

8. Where can I find minutes/reports from pension meetings?

Minutes and reports from meetings can be found on the Research pages of the Hub, the internal website for the Federation and therefore only accessible by reps - therefore please contact your local rep if you wish to see these.  As we work towards further transparency in the organisation we are looking at how and when such papers should be published online to be viewed.

 

9. How many police officers at Leatherhead are affected?

As at March 2017 the members of the Interim National Board are made up as follows:

  • 12 protected
  • 10 tapered
  • 4 not protected

Please note however that members of the board are elected into positions and as people leave / elections take place, these figures will also change.

 

10. If Federation legal advice is wrong, will you fund a legal challenge for all officers?

No. The legal advice is just that – advice – and while we have taken that on board, we do not believe that a challenge based on transitional protections is in the best interests of most members. The debate is not confined to a legal argument, with a number of factors to be considered. The judges’ ET ruling was against the transitional protections put in place, stating that those given the protections had been treated better than could be justified based on the evidence.

 

11. How many colleagues are protected/partially or not protected?

In total, more than 67,000 of our 121,000 members had either full protection (more than 49,000) or tapered protection (just over 18,000).

Figures around the number of officers who received full protection, tapered protection and no protection - as at March 2012 - can be found in a Government report here. Two tables are supplied below, although of course these figures will have changed since then.

 

Summary data for PPS active members
Summary data for NPPS active members

12. How many members were affected, to a detrimental effect, by the pension changes introduced by this Government?

It is not possible to pinpoint this as not all of those officers in the new scheme will suffer an adverse effect to their future pension accrual. Some people in the new scheme might actually be better off. 

 

13. How many members’ interests do you represent nationally?

As at February 2016 we represented 121,706 officers. New figures are due imminently and we know this number will have fallen due to the reduced number of serving police officers. 

 

14. What about my specific pension? It is not just older members who had an expectation of pension pot. I joined at 19, partly for the pension, what are you doing to even out the loss?

We are not able to comment on individual pension cases.

There has been no loss of any accrued benefits. Those benefits accrued to the date of change have been protected, and because of the link to ‘final final’ salary and weighted accrual, are protected on a more generous basis than is strictly required by law.

What has been lost is the expectation that the old schemes would carry on indefinitely and unfortunately such an expectation is not capable of being protected.

The Government is empowered to pass primary legislation to change matters and this is what has happened here; PFEW was not in a position to stop it, nor are any other staff associations or unions.
The 2015 CARE scheme remains a very good pension scheme, and is favourable compared to most other pension schemes, both in the public sector and those in the private sector.

 

15. When calculating lump sums in the old 1987 scheme, why do female officers receive more per £100 commuted than their fellow male officers? Surely this is discrimination due to gender?

This isn’t correct. Men and women have the same commutation factors in the Police Pension Scheme 1987.

  

16. In light of the findings of the judges’ pensions ET, would you be willing to change your stance and fund legal action as the police's representative?

The judges’ case was solely about transitional protections, and whether the direct age discrimination, and indirect sex and race discrimination caused by them could be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

  • There was no challenge to the legality of the introduction of a new judges’ pension scheme.  
  • The judge acknowledged that there is no statutory ban on reducing pensions and pay for the future.
  • The judge was very clear that he was not ruling on wider public sector pensions’ reform, as this is a matter of public policy.

Moreover, we do not agree that a challenge along these lines would be in the best interests of our members. 

We are not planning any challenges at this stage, but we continue to keep this under review. You can read more detail about our response to the judges' ET (published on 17 January, 2017) here.

The basis of the original legal advice received has not changed and our stance remains the same. 

 

17. Is it right that the Judges’ ET ruling said they had been treated better than they needed to be?

Correct. At no point was it indicated that anyone was treated worse than they should have been, and in the case of comparing someone with transitional protections with someone without any transitional protections, the ruling stated that those with protections had been treated better than they needed to have been. 

 

18. What could this mean?

That ruling potentially leaves a lot of people worse off, and no one better off as employers could remove all protections other than those applying to accrued rights.

 

19. Why aren’t we challenging on the grounds of age discrimination?

Based on our legal advice we do not consider that a challenge will be successful. Further, a challenge could mean that the transitional protections we had fought for could be removed. We believe that transitional protections are a good thing as we aim to achieve a positive outcome for as many of our members as possible.

The FBU’s employment tribunal result, in February 2017, ruled that the transitional arrangements for firefighters’ pensions whilst discriminatory on the grounds of age were justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The FBU is appealing this.

  

20. What are the potential likely outcomes following the Judges’ ET case?

The judges’ case will not determine the results of other employment tribunals, but it could have an influence. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is appealing the ruling (Law Gazette article published 28 February, 2017) which seems to support the unions’ stance that transitional protections were the right thing to do.

 

21. What happens next? Can you give an indication of what you will do in all potential scenarios, i.e. appeals and wins or loses?

We will continue to monitor the situation with public service pensions and await further information on both the appeals which have been lodged.  We have chosen not to challenge because we believe that transitional protections are a good thing (link to our position on the Pensions Challenge published October 2015).

  

22. If the Pensions Challenge group wins on similar grounds to the judges, what will happen?

We expect the transitional protections to be removed, and therefore all members will be put into the 2015 CARE Scheme. Accrued benefits will be unaffected. Members will not go back into the 1987 scheme.

 

23. Why have a Federation or why in fact pay into a pension scheme?

The Federation remains the single best way to protect your interests. Benefits include:

  • Access to trained Federation reps. For example, in a misconduct hearing the only right of audience with the officer under investigation is a Fed rep or a friend, but only Fed reps are trained specifically in conduct regulations. Solicitors do not have a right to attend these meetings
  • Assistance in misconduct or unsatisfactory performance and attendance cases
  • Legal advice in pursuit of a civil claim for damages against a third person if you are injured on or off duty as a result of a third party’s negligence
  • Legal assistance in Criminal Injury Compensation Claims and appeals
  • Legal advice and assistance on any matter connected with your occupation, including discrimination claims
  • Legal representation if you are accused, or charged with criminal or road traffic offences arising out of police duty
  • Legal assistance to pursue a claim for defamation arising out of your duty as a police officer if the need arises
  • Assistance in police pension appeals, or other matters of general principle

All police officers have the option to opt out of the pension scheme at any time, but it remains a good scheme and we strongly advise anyone to seek independent financial advice before doing so. Previous FAQs on the CARE Scheme (published 27 March 2015) state the many benefits of remaining in the pension scheme.

  

24. Where can I go to get more information?

If your question hasn’t been answered, you can speak to your local Federation or can email gensec@polfed.org. Please note due to the high volume of enquiries it may take some time to get back to you.