NHS Scotland Once for Scotland workforce policies - work-life balance: consultation

The NHSScotland 'Once for Scotland' Workforce policies programme is designed to review and transform existing workforce policies (previously known as Partnership Information Network (PIN) Policies). This consultation focuses on the refreshed supporting the work-life balance suite of policies.

2. Retirement Policy

2.1. Aim

2.1.1. To provide a framework to support employees:

  • in a smooth transition from work to retirement
  • who wish to retire and return to employment

2.2. Scope

2.2.1. This policy applies to all employees.

2.2.2. The retire and return route is not available to staff who retire because of:

  • ill health
  • organisational change
  • the pension category of efficiency of the service

2.2.3. The identification of other possible employment for staff in these categories using the appropriate policy. Please refer to the following policies:

2.2.4. This policy complies with current legislation and meets the aims of the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010

2.3. Definitions

2.3.1. A job family is a high-level grouping of roles with a common purpose or similar responsibilities, such as nursing and midwifery or support services.

2.3.2. Phased retirement is a planned, agreed reduction of working time in the period leading up to the date when an individual can access their pension.

2.3.3. Retire and return is an accelerated route to return to work on fewer hours or in an alternate role while accessing a pension at the same time.

2.3.4. Retirement is the date at which an employee accesses their pension.

2.3.5. Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) is the government body that manages pensions for NHSScotland employees.

2.4. Roles and responsibilities

2.4.1. There is a range of standard expectations which underpin all policies. Read more about standard roles and responsibilities. In addition, the following specific responsibilities apply to this policy.

2.4.2. Manager

2.4.3. The manager should:

  • support the employee through the application process for retirement
  • process all required documents quickly to make sure there is no delay in pension payments
  • provide time off and funding to support the employee's participation in retirement preparation courses
  • consider all retire and return applications fairly and consistently, and make sure they do not unreasonably refuse an employee request
  • make sure retire and return requests receive a prompt response, and if declined, provide reasons for refusal
  • complete all appropriate contractual documentation
  • update appropriate systems

2.4.4. Employee

2.4.5. The employee should:

  • plan for applying for their pension
  • contact the SPPA or other pension provider with sufficient time to obtain information about their personal pension situation
  • apply for phased retirement within the timescale stated in the policy
  • check any breaks in service required if returning to work and any restriction on hours of work once re-employed, so their pension is not affected

2.5. Procedure

2.5.1. Employees considering retirement should notify their manager at least 6 months before their planned retirement date, particularly if they wish to access phased retirement. To allow payment of their pension on time, the employee must complete the following documents:

  • NHS pension application
  • formal notification of termination of employment

2.5.2. Employees must submit the completed documents to their manager no later than 4 months before retirement.

2.5.3. To support employees in their transition to retirement, they will have the opportunity to attend a pre-retirement course and access phased retirement.

2.5.4. Phased retirement

2.5.5. This policy allows for a gradual voluntary reduction in working hours 3 months before the employee's retirement date. It provides time to adjust to working fewer hours and prepare for retirement. The employee will be entitled to reduce their working week by the following amount:

  • third month before retiral – 20% of contracted hours
  • second month before retiral – 40% of contracted hours
  • last month before retiral – 60% of contracted hours

2.5.6. Employees will receive their salary during this time as if they are at work working their contracted hours. They will also retain their annual leave entitlement at their contracted hours during the phased retirement.

2.5.7. The policy aims to support employees in the transition to retirement. Using annual leave during a phased retirement to bring forward their last working day will not usually be allowed. Employees should take most of their annual leave before their phased retirement starts to support rest and recuperation.

2.5.8. Employees are entitled to only one period of phased retirement. Employees can take their period of phased retirement before they access their pension, or it can form part of their retire and return agreement, if applicable.

2.5.9. Employees should advise their manager of their intention to access a phased retirement at least 6 months before their retirement date to qualify for it. The manager and the employee should then discuss and agree on the employee's working arrangements during the phased retirement period. For example, what days will the employee work and what aspects of their post will they continue with during their phased retirement. The work carried out by the employee must be based on the needs of the service. The organisation may apply this policy if the employee gives less than 6 months' notice, and it can arrange cover.

2.5.10. Retire and return

2.5.11. There is no right for an employee to return to work automatically following their retirement. However, this policy offers an accelerated route to support a return to work, where appropriate, and potentially benefits both employer and employee.

2.5.12. The employee should complete a retire and return application form [form to request the accelerated route to return to work following retirement] for consideration at the same time as they apply for their pension. The manager and employee should then discuss and agree options for a return to work. A manager with sufficient seniority to understand broader workforce implications and plans must authorise the application. The completed retire and return application form should then be held in the employee's personal file.

2.5.13. Return to the existing post

2.5.14. When considering an application, the manager needs to assess the needs of the post and the service. This should include potential barriers such as:

  • any planned service redesign
  • the availability of posts to support redeployment. Refer to the Redeployment Policy
  • the need for the post to be full-time or the requirement for on-call

2.5.15. The employer may explore other options if they cannot consider a return to the existing post. For example, the returner can be considered for posts within the same job family.

2.5.16. Alternatively, the returner can apply for advertised posts on these websites through open competition:

2.5.17. Return to a different band or role

2.5.18. A returner can apply for a post in the same job family either at a different grade or elsewhere in the service. The employee should approach their manager to see if there is a suitable vacancy to match their skills and experience. Unless there are statutory or redeployment requirements to consider other employees first, their application for the vacancy should be considered before others. For example, a retired physiotherapy team leader returning to a band 5 physiotherapist post. Re-employment into the same job family will not require the usual recruitment process for appointment.

2.5.19. Re-employment to a different job family, for example, from nursing to administrative services, must be made through normal recruitment processes. The employer will appoint the individual on a substantive or fixed-term contract, depending on the advertised post.

2.5.20. Return to a bank contract

2.5.21. A returner may wish for more flexibility in their working pattern. Therefore, continuing with an existing bank contract or returning to a contract for service with the staff bank may be considered.

2.5.22. Contractual issues

2.5.23. The employee will need to resign from their original NHS contract of employment so they can be terminated from payroll. If the individual intends to access their NHS pension, they must complete the relevant paperwork at least 4 months before their retirement date.

2.5.24. On re-employment, the employer will offer a new contract for the part-time or alternate role. This contract will normally be made on a permanent basis unless the post would have been advertised as fixed-term contract, had it not been filled by the returner.

2.5.25. Under employment law, the individual's continuity of employment will be broken if there is a break of more than one week (measured Sunday to Saturday) between retirement and return. If there is a break of less than one week between retirement and return, continuity of employment will be retained. If continuity of employment is broken this will effect statutory entitlements and an employee's ability to raise certain claims at an Employment Tribunal.

2.5.26. NHS Terms and Conditions cover NHS entitlements, such as annual leave and sick pay. The NHS Terms and Conditions set out the maximum break allowed before previous NHS reckonable service is discounted. Each entitlement, such as sick pay, annual leave, or redundancy, has maximum break provisions.

2.5.27. The individual will be re-employed on the most recent pay point on their basic salary scale if returning to their current, or an equivalent, post. This rate of pay will not include any protection of earnings applicable to their previous role, or any allowances unless they relate to the new role.

2.5.28. If returning to a lower-graded post, they will be placed on a point on the pay scale that reflects their years of experience. In most cases this will be the top of the new pay scale in line with the terms and conditions [Directors Letter DL(2021)47].

2.5.29. Employers should work with Medical and Dental Consultants to agree the most appropriate way for them to be re-employed in the service. Associate specialists will be re-employed on a locum Consultant basis.

2.5.30. Executive Directors, who are appointed members of an NHS Board, may retire and return to a different post in the same job family. To return to their previous Executive Director post on a part-time basis will require consideration in line with the Ministerial appointments process.

2.5.31. A retire and returner under state pension age will be automatically enrolled into the pension scheme, unless they opt out within a month of return.

2.5.32. Appeal process

2.5.33. The employee will have a right to appeal within 14 calendar days against a decision to refuse the request. When exercising this right, the employee must identify the reason for their appeal.

2.5.34. The appeal panel Chair, in accordance with the scheme of delegation, will be responsible for identifying membership of the appeal hearing panel.

2.5.35. The appeal panel Chair will also inform all parties of the arrangements in writing no later than 14 calendar days before the hearing.

2.5.36. Outcome

2.5.37. Following the appeal hearing, the Chair will write to all relevant parties within 7 calendar days to confirm the outcome. The letter should include the rationale behind any decision regarding the employee's grounds for appeal.

2.5.38. The outcome of the appeal will be final for this application.

2.6. Supporting documentation

It is proposed that the supporting documents listed below will be developed to support the policy. Supporting documents are not part of the consultation. These will be drafted following the consultation when responses have been analysed and the policy is developed in a final draft.

Employee guide

Descriptor: guide to help employees use and understand the Retirement Policy.

Manager guide

Descriptor: guide to help managers use and understand the Retirement Policy.

Retirement policy flowchart

Descriptor: visual and text alternative flowcharts outlining the key steps in the Retirement Policy.

Retire and return application form

Descriptor: form to request the accelerated route to return to work following retirement.

2.7. Consultation questions

We are inviting responses to this consultation using the Scottish Government's consultation hub. The following questions are set.

In your response, all questions have the option to answer yes or no. You are invited to provide further comment in a free text box. If you wish to make specific reference to a section of the policy, please quote the relevant numbered line in this consultation document.

1. Do you feel there are any gaps in the policy?

2. Do you feel there are any gaps in the proposed list of supporting documents?

3. Do you have any other comments to make on the policy?

4. Do you have any views on the potential impacts of this policy on equalities groups?

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. These are protected characteristics under the Equality Act, 2010.



Back to top