Re-employing staff who receive an NHS pension

“Retire and return” is an option available to NHS Pension Scheme members

The Department of Health published guidance on 2nd August about re-employing staff in receipt of NHS Pension Scheme benefits.

“Retire and return” is an option available to NHS Pension Scheme members, which means they can return to work for the NHS after taking their NHS pension. The guidance makes it clear that applications for “retire and return” should not be automatically approved and highlights that the use of “retire and return” has been the subject of some negative media publicity, given tight public finances and pay restraints. This has led to questions being raised about inappropriate use of NHS Pension Scheme benefits.

The guidance has been issued to help employers consider applications from staff who wish to “retire and return” to work for the NHS. The under lying principles of “retire and return” are to:

  • Enable the retention of skills, knowledge and experience that are necessary for the  delivery of safe patient care;
  • Help support the health and wellbeing of older staff as they approach retirement and wish to continue working; and
  • Ensure overall workforce costs are managed in line with budgets.

The guidance provides that employers should have policies and procedures in place so that “retire and return” decisions can be justified on the grounds of service needs and value for money. It provides a checklist to assist decision making.

The guidance goes on to emphasise other ‘flexible retirement’ options available under the NHS Pension Scheme, which can be considered alongside “retire and return”. Flexible retirement options can also support a longer working life, whilst benefitting staff by:

  • Supporting work/life balance considerations including caring responsibilities;
  • Allowing staff to prioritise their own health and wellbeing;
  • Allowing skills to be retained whilst changing working arrangements (e.g. reduced physical demands and/or responsibilities, different shift patterns etc) to provide a range of choices as staff prepare for  retirement or decide to work longer.

Employers should ensure that they have appropriate polices and procedures in place which are in line with the guidance. Through workforce engagement and communication, employers should ensure that staff are aware that "retire and return" applications will be considered in line with the principles outlined above, taking account of service, financial and workforce needs. The guidance states that employers should be prepared to publicly justify their decisions.  

Please get in touch with your normal Weightmans contact if this raises any queries or Jane Marshall, Partner on 0161 214 0508 or on email at

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