The College offers three pension schemes to staff and casual workers; the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the Superannuation Arrangement of the University of London (SAUL) and the NHS Pension Scheme. Each scheme has different eligibility criteria, which are related to job roles and pay grades.
USS is a national scheme for universities, research and educational bodies, and it is open at Imperial to all staff in academic or comparable posts. It is a hybrid scheme, meaning that it is partly a defined benefit scheme and partly a defined contribution scheme.
Members currently earn a defined benefit pension on salary up to £57,216.50 per annum, and defined contribution benefits on salaries above this threshold at a cost of 8% of salary. The College pays 18% of pensionable pay into the scheme each year for each member.
Every three years, the USS carries out a valuation to ensure that the assets it holds can be expected to pay the benefits that members have already built up in the scheme, and to determine how much is needed to continue to provide the current benefits in the future for members who continue to contribute.
The consultation on the March 2017 valuation issued by USS in September 2017 indicated that the aggregate contribution from employers and members needed to rise from 26% to 32.6% of pensionable salaries unless the benefit structure were to change.
The USS’s Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) proposed a reform package to address the deficit; this triggered industrial action across the sector with the University and College Union (UCU) announcing 14 strike dates at 61 universities, including Imperial.
In March 2018, Universities UK (UUK) and the UCU put benefit reform discussions on hold while a Joint Expert Panel (JEP) examined the 2017 valuation and agreed key principles to underpin a future joint approach.
In September 2018 the JEP issued their first report undertaking a retrospective review of the 2017 valuation and exploring the scope of possible adjustments to the methodology which would allow the valuation to be concluded.
The initial reaction to the report from UUK and UCU was positive. The College requested that USS gives full consideration to the outputs of the JEP work prior to making any changes to contributions in 2019 and beyond. However, at this stage USS has concluded that it is legally required to continue to run a consultation on the original basis until any new approach might be agreed.
This 2018 consultation proposed increasing the aggregate combined contribution from members and employers to 37.4%, although this would reduce to 36.6% with a proposed change to the matching contribution currently in the scheme. Under the cost sharing rules, the increase in total contributions would be split 35:65 between members and employers respectively.
The consultation proposes phasing in the increase in contributions from 1 April 2019 to 1 April 2020. The consultation ended on 2 November 2018 and the results of the consultation are expected in December 2018.
In response to the USS pension dispute, the College undertook a comprehensive Pay and Benefits Review which involved sharing demographic, pay and benefits information and a supplementary pack of financial information with the College community.
Several hundred members of staff responded and the high-level summary of the themes and issues arising from the consultation were and have been the focus of much of the work undertaken since May.
SAUL is open to colleges and other institutions with links to the University of London. It is a defined benefit career average revalued earnings scheme whereby a member’s pension is based on their pensionable pay right across their career.
The College currently contributes 16% of pensionable salary into the scheme year for each member. The scheme is also valued every three years with the last valuation carried out as at 31 March 2017.
Staff who have pension rights in the NHS Pension Scheme, on taking up a post within the College, may remain members of the scheme. The scheme rules preclude the College from offering the scheme to anyone who would be joining the scheme as a new member.
It is a nationally administered scheme that covers NHS employers, General Practices and other bodies, allowed under the direction of the Secretary of State in England and Wales. It is a defined benefit scheme into which the College currently contributes 14.38% of pensionable salary each year.