NHS offers nurses cash to opt out of pensions

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The NHS is offering new nurses a higher salary if they opt out of the the health service’s automatic enrolment scheme.

The FT reports the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust in south-east London gives newly-qualified ‘band 5’ nurses the choice of being paid money that would go into the scheme.

It is against auto-enrolment rules for employers to offer inducements to opt out of a scheme, and the NHS Pensions Board is considering referring the case to the Pensions Regulator.

NHS Pensions Board member Paul Moloney says: “It is clear from the Trust’s website, that an inducement of a higher pay rate is being offered to those who do not join, or leave, the NHS pension scheme, which is the scheme used for auto-enrolment for all NHS employers.”

He adds: “The Pensions Regulator’s own guidance quotes an example of a clear-cut breach of automatic enrolment legislation, as an employer offering higher pay as an incentive to leave an auto-enrolment scheme.”

Nurses union The Royal College Nursing says it has concerns staff will suffer in retirement if they are not properly advised about the consequences of opting out of a pension.

But the Oxleas NHS Trust says it makes “no direct savings” in the deal and says TPR “concluded the choice we are offering is lawful”.

It confirms nurses have had the option of taking cash over a pension since January 2016.

TPR says: “Some cases may be less clear-cut than others but in fact do not constitute inducement.”

It adds: “For example, where employers offer a flexible benefits package and give staff a genuinely free and fair choice as to whether they choose to stay in a scheme or take alternative benefits.

“Where the employer has no vested interest in the individual’s decision, it would not constitute inducement.”

DWP declined to comment.