Scheme members

17. Covid-19 active and deferred member FAQs

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in the way that we live and work.

This short guide will answer some of the questions you may have about the impact of the outbreak on your Buckinghamshire Local Government Pension.

 

I heard that the coronavirus is impacting on pensions, will the value of my Buckinghamshire Local Government Pension decrease?

No. The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a defined benefit scheme.

This means your pension is based on your salary and how long you’ve paid in, rather than any investment or stock market performance, so it will not be impacted by the current crisis.

 

What about my AVC fund, will coronavirus impact on the value of that?

If you have an AVC fund, it is possible that the value will reduce depending on the type of fund. You should contact your AVC provider directly for more information.

We’re unable to offer any financial advice. However, if you have an AVC fund and you’re due to retire soon, you may wish to contact our team to find out what AVC options will be available to you at retirement.

 

I'm retiring soon, will you still be able to pay me my pension?

Yes. Paying your pension is a priority to us and we’ll do everything we can to ensure you receive payment.

If you’re an active member, you may wish to take a look at our retirement process guide which includes answers to some of our most common retirement FAQs.

 

Are you still dealing with other things like transfers and issuing benefit statements?

While we’re prioritising certain areas of work, such as; retirements and deaths, we’re still doing our best to complete all other requests. Though this does mean that it may take longer than usual to respond to your queries. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time.

Though we have not currently suspended any area of work, other pension funds may decide to do so which could cause some delays that are out of our control.

 

I am currently receiving a pension from you; will you keep paying me?

Yes. We consider this a priority. Your payments will continue as usual.

 

Can I still get in touch with you if I have more questions, or need help with my pension?

Yes. Although many of us are working from home, and we're prioritising key areas of work, we’re still processing your requests in the usual way. Our contact details are at the end of this page. 

 

Can I still send you letters?

You can still send us letters if you don’t have internet access, but it may take longer than usual to process your request. To provide you with the best service, and to minimize our time in the office, we request that you please send us information electronically.

You can now send us information via your ‘my pensions online’ account.

If you have any problems registering, we’re ready to assist you. You can email us at mypensiononline@buckinghamshire.gov.uk or call us on 01296 383 755.

 

I heard that there are more scams about due to coronavirus, what can I do to protect myself and my pension?

We have many procedures in place to ensure that your details are kept safe. So, you can be confident that we are looking after the security of your pension account. However, there are sadly many scams currently operating in relation to Covid-19 which you should be aware of.

These scams could be about insurance policies, pension transfers, or high-return investments. These scammers have very clever ways of getting your personal information or convincing you to transfer your pension to unregulated, untrustworthy schemes.

It is essential that you take every precaution to avoid falling victim to a scam, and don’t share personal information with others. Everyone can be scammed; not just the vulnerable.

The Money Advice Service offers guidance on how to avoid pension scams. If you suspect a scam, you should call Action Fraud immediately on 0300 123 2040. If you’re considering transferring your pension to another scheme, you should make sure that the scheme is reputable. If you’re not sure, you can contact The Pensions Advisory Service for more help.

 

I'm struggling to manage financially; can I opt out of paying pension contributions?

You can opt out, but you should make sure that it’s the right decision for you by understanding the implications. For example; if you opt out now, and you’re entitled to a deferred benefit, if you rejoin the scheme later, a new pension record will be set up and you will not be able to combine this later record with your earlier one. Also, being an LGPS member means your next of kin will be entitled to receive 3 times your pensionable pay if you were to die in service. If you opt out, your loved ones could miss out. 

Rather than opting out, you may wish to consider joining the 50/50 section of the scheme. This is a way to reduce your pension contributions whilst remaining in the LGPS. Also, many companies, such as banks and car finance firms are offering support during the Covid-19 crisis. The  Money Advice Service has Full details of financial support you may be entitled to.   

You should get independent financial advice before you make your decision, but if you still wish to opt out after considering the other options, you can do so by completing an optout form and sending it to your payroll provider.

 

I’m off sick, will that impact on my pension?

No. If you’re off sick, your pension will continue to build-up as if you were working as usual. You will continue to pay pension contributions on any sick pay you receive.

 

I’m in financial difficulty, can I take my deferred pension early?

You can take your pension at any point after age 55, though there will be reductions if you’re taking your pension before normal pension age. However, you still need to provide us with three months’ notice to take your pension early. It’s a difficult and worrying time, and you may be tempted to make rushed decisions about your finances, so please make sure you’ve considered your options carefully and sought financial advice where possible.

The Money Advice Service has more information on the financial support that may be available to you. 

 

I've been furloughed, what happens to my pension?

Public funded workers are unlikely to be furloughed, but some employers in the LGPS will be able to access the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

If you’re furloughed, your employer can apply for a grant to cover 80% of your usual salary, up to a maximum of £2,500, from 1 November 2020 until 30 June 2021. After 1 July, the amount that can be claimed by employers for a furloughed employee will reduce. The employer will also be required to contribute towards the employee’s wages. The government has stated that the scheme will close on 1 October 2021.

Furloughed pay is pensionable, and you will continue to pay contributions on this. Your employer will also pay contributions based on the furloughed pay. If your pay is reduced, your pension build-up will also be lower than it would be if you were receiving full pay.

You can choose to pay Additional Pension Contributions (APC) to buy extra pension to make up for the loss. Your employer is not obliged contribute towards this, though they can choose to.

 

I'm on authorised unpaid leave, how will that effect my pension?

If you take unpaid leave, you will not build up pension for the period, but you can choose to pay a Lost Pension APC to make up for it. The cost will be split between you and your employer, but you must apply within 30 days of your return to work to be eligible.

Contact your employer directly to request the amount of lost pension, complete the online form and send it directly to your employer.  

 

I've taken Emergency Volunteering Leave (EVL), what impact will that have?

The government has allowed workers to contribute to the coronavirus effort by introducing a new statutory entitlement called Emergency Volunteering Leave This allows workers to take unpaid emergency leave to volunteer in health and social care roles.

If you take a period of EVL, your pension will continue to build up in the same way as if you had continued working in your normal role. You will only pay contributions on any actual pay you receive.

 

Will the government's death in service life assurance scheme for frontline NHS and social care workers be paid in addition to the LGPS death in service grant?

Yes - the scheme specifies that payments are separate to and regardless of other registered pension scheme benefits.

 

Contact

If you have any queries, contact the Pensions & Investments Team.

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Last updated: 4 May 2021

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