Frequently Asked Questions
Joining the College’s pension scheme
What is a pension?
A pension is a special type of savings plan to help you put aside money for later life. For most people it has tax benefits too.
What is pension Auto Enrolment?
The law requires that all eligible employees and casual workers are enrolled into a pension scheme. Imperial College will do this automatically either when your employment commences or at the point you reach certain qualifying criteria - you do not need to take any action.
I have been automatically enrolled into the pension scheme, can I opt out?
Yes you can opt out at any time after enrolment. If you wish to opt out of the pension scheme you are required to complete the appropriate opt out form for your grade of employment. If you opt out within three months of joining the scheme, you are not required to give any prior notice of your intention to opt out.
Once you have been in the pension scheme for three months you are required to give 28 days’ notice of your intention to opt out. This notice period starts from the date you sign the opt out form and you will leave the scheme on the first day of the month following on from the end of the notice period (your election date).
Your contributions will cease with effect from your election date.
I am a casual worker - am I entitled to join the pension scheme?
Yes. After two months of employment you will be automatically enrolled into the appropriate pension scheme, provided that you are aged between 22 and 65 years and earn more than £833 per month.
It may take more than two months for you to meet the qualifying criteria. If you do not wish to contribute you may opt out of the pension scheme at any time.
Which pension scheme am I entitled to join?
Eligible for Academic & Research family, Professional, Technical, Operational, Learning & Teaching family - Level 4 and above.
Eligible for Professional, Technical, Operational, Learning and Teaching family - Level 3b and below.
Eligible for staff who have participated in the scheme in the preceding 12 months.
Imperial College offers three pension schemes:
- Superannuation Arrangements for the University of London – SAUL
- University Superannuation Scheme – USS
- National Health Service – NHSPS
Your job role and / or grade will determine which pension scheme you are eligible to join.
What is the difference between the USS Retirement Income Builder and USS Investment Builder schemes?
When you become a member of USS you automatically join the USS Retirement Income Builder. In this type of defined benefit pension scheme your benefits are based on each year’s salary throughout the period of membership.
USS also offers a Defined Contribution scheme called Investment Builder. In this scheme benefits are determined by the amount contributed and the performance of the investment.
If you earn over the Salary Threshold (currently £55,550 per year) any contributions deducted from your salary above the threshold will automatically be added to the Investment Builder Scheme.
In addition, all scheme members are entitled to make additional voluntary contributions to the Investment Builder Scheme.
Your pension contributions
How much will I contribute to my pension?
8% of your pensionable salary
6% of your pensionable salary
Variable percentage depending upon your salary:
Percentage of contribution
Up to £15,431.99
£15,432.00 to £21,387.99
£21,388.00 to £26,823.99
£26,824.00 to £49,472.99
£49,473.00 to £70,630.99
£70,631.00 to £111,376.99
How much does the College contribute to my pension?
18% of pensionable salary
16% of pensionable salary
14.38% of pensionable salary
Can I make additional contributions to my College pension?
Yes. You can choose to make additional contributions, subject to certain restrictions and depending upon the particular scheme that you are a member of.
All USS members have the option to make Additional Voluntary Contributions to the Investment Builder section of the scheme at 1% of pensionable salary, or more.
For those who take up this option the College will make an additional ‘matched’ 1% contribution.
You may increase your pension by buying Additional Pension (AP). AP is a flexible way of increasing your scheme pension. It allows you to choose to buy extra annual pension and see clearly how much the purchase will cost. Under this option you choose to buy a set amount of annual pension for an agreed amount of contributions that you can choose to pay either as a lump sum or as a regular payment for an agreed period of time.
You may increase your retirement benefits by paying Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs), either to purchase additional pension through the NHSPS, or building up a capital fund in a "money purchase" facility or Stakeholder provided by Prudential or Standard Life, or alternatively, in a “Free Standing AVC (FSAVC)” facility with the provider of your choice.
Is there a limit to how much I can contribute to my pension?
There is no limit to how much you contribute to your pension, but HMRC does set limits on the amount which can be contributed to a pension without paying tax.
These restrictions cover both an individual tax year and your lifetime allowance.
For most employees these limits will have no effect, however for a small number of individuals they may influence their decision to contribute to a pension scheme.
If you think you may be affected please contact the Pensions office for more information.
How can I find out how much my College pension is?
You will receive an annual benefit statement from your pension scheme provider.
The pension schemes also provide on-line tools to help you estimate your future projected pension benefits.
Leaving the pension scheme
If I opt out of the pension scheme will I get my contributions back?
Yes. If you inform us within three months of joining the scheme you will receive a full refund of your personal contribution (not the College’s contribution), minus any appropriate Tax and NI deductions.
If you have been a pension scheme member in excess of three months then the pension scheme providers will write to you outlining your options. If you have made less than two years’ contributions and you did not contribute via PensionSMART, it may be possible for you to receive a refund from the pension scheme.
If I opt out or leave Imperial College, what happens to contributions I have already made to a College pension scheme?
The pension scheme will write to you setting out your options. You may choose to leave the contributions in the scheme, transfer them to another scheme or in certain circumstances, receive a refund of your contributions.
If I opt out can I re-join the pension scheme later?
Yes. You can re-join the scheme appropriate for your job family and grade at any time.
Your pension; past, present and future
I intend to re-join the pension scheme and I previously contributed to one of the College's pension schemes, will my benefits be the same?
No. You will re-join the scheme on the current terms, regardless of the terms you previously had.
I previously contributed to the NHS pension scheme, can I re-join the scheme?
Yes. If you have contributed to the NHS scheme within the previous 12 months you may continue membership of that scheme.
You must inform us within three months of commencing employment with Imperial College that you wish to continue your membership, using form SD65.
If we do not receive the form within three months, or you are unable to prove your previous membership, you will be unable to re-join and will be enrolled on the default pension scheme for your job role and/or grade.
Can I transfer a previous pension into my Imperial College pension?
Yes, but transfers will only be accepted into the Investment Builder scheme. You should contact USS directly if you wish to transfer a previous arrangement to them by completing the USS Transfer Request Form (pdf)
How do I nominate a beneficiary for my pension in the event of my death?
How your pension will work with planned absence
What happens to my pension when I am on family leave?
Your pension record will be maintained throughout your period of paid family leave (e.g. maternity, adoption, shared parental). When on half-pay the College will maintain your contribution at the full rate.
If you are planning on taking a period of unpaid family leave, you should make an appointment to discuss your individual position with the Pensions’ team.
What happens to my pension if I take unpaid sabbatical leave?
Your department may agree to maintain some or all of your contributions during your period of unpaid sabbatical leave.
Please check with your Departmental Operating Manager in the first instance.
What is pensionSMART?
PensionSMART is a salary exchange method, which saves pension scheme members National Insurance Contributions (NIC).
As a member of USS or SAUL you are automatically enrolled into this scheme.
You can chose to contribute directly to the College’s pension scheme or via PensionSMART.
If I contribute via pensionSMART will I be able to request a refund of my contributions?
If you contribute for more than three months, you will be unable to receive a refund of pension contributions made via PensionSMART.
Therefore, if your contract is for less than two years it may be beneficial for you to opt out of PensionSMART and contribute directly, as you will retain the option of a refund of your own pension contributions less tax adjustments.
Once you achieve two years (729 days) of pensionable service in the College pension scheme a refund of your own contributions will no longer be available, regardless of how you contributed to the scheme.
If I choose to contribute through pensionSMART will I be able to change my mind?
You can opt-out of PensionSMART initially on joining the College, if you have a lifestyle change, or thereafter on the PensionSMART scheme anniversary of 1 December.
Please contact the Pensions’ office to request a PensionSMART opt-out form
By opting out you will continue to receive your existing salary and make pension contributions, directly to the scheme, however you will not benefit from the reduced National Insurance contributions or the higher take home pay.
Leaving your employment at Imperial
Do I have to tell the pension scheme provider that I have left Imperial College?
No. Your pension scheme provider (SAUL, USS or NHS) will be automatically informed after your final salary payment has been made. The pension scheme will then write to you, usually within three months of your official leaving date, setting out your options.
Can I transfer my Imperial College pension to a new employer?
Yes. Most UK pension schemes will accept transfers from a UK scheme that you previously contributed to, but you should contact your new employer to clarify your options.
If your new employer offers you membership of the pension scheme that you have contributed to whilst employed at Imperial College, it should be possible for you to continue making contributions to that scheme.