Maternity and the Pension

This is a common topic I get asked about, normally from the angle of someone who is looking to get a bit more money NOW…understandably of course. This is a post I made on the Facebook group in response to one such question.

I do always feel a bit like Marie Antoinette telling others to “Let them eat cake” when I talk about this aspect of the scheme – and note a trigger warning, I will be talking about death and distressing circumstances shortly.


The pension is better value for money whilst on maternity leave.

You pay the same % of your wage throughout, but as maternity pay drops this means you pay less. (I will assume 10% = £400)

For this however, the amount your pension gets credited with (1/57th) remains the same all the time you are on at least statutory maternity pay. (£70)

In £ terms.

  • Weeks 1-4: 100% pay. £400 a month from you. Pension increases by £70.
  • Weeks 5-6: 90% pay. £360 a month from you. Pension STILL increases by £70.
  • Weeks 7-18: 50% pay. £200 a month from you. Pension STILL increases by £70.
  • Weeks 19-39: SMP. £61 a month from you. Pension STILL increases by £70.

(With tax you would only get 80% of the amounts you pay into the pension).


My apologies but I am going to be blunt.

Take a worst case scenario. You die and your child (or children if twins etc) survive.

Having opted out they would miss out on:

1) the much greater death-in-service grant

(Three times what would be your full time salary instead of, roughly, three times your pension), and

2) the enhanced survivor’s pension for the next 18-23 years of their life (lives).

(The enhancement adds half of what you would have added to your pension between now and your state pension age).

Your partner would also miss out on getting an enhanced survivor’s pension as well.


Whilst I would urge you not to leave the pension scheme I appreciate that I do so from a position of privilege, if you are in a position where this makes the difference you decide is critical then it is one you can make, I hope that what I have said though allows you to do it with a greater understanding of what the cost to your pension might be.

Opting Out – Warning (TPS)


When you go to opt out you get “warned” about doing this with a list of what they consider the dire consequences…bear in mind that this list is aimed at those who are thinking about opting out of the pension scheme for good and not those who are looking to “lock in” a good set of salaries that could soon become too old to be used and may be lost forever without such action. Opting out to invoke the protective hypothetical calculation is not the same as leaving altogether.

However, the warnings do worry people – that is the intention, after all, to make those thinking about leaving, pause for thought. There are some parts that are relevant but here I go through each of the points being made.

my employer contributing towards the cost of my benefits (23.6% of your pensionable earnings);1) Employer contributing 23.6%.
It doesn’t matter how much they contribute. The calculation of your final salary is based on rules and not on how much money is paid into the scheme. Opting out to use the hypothetical calculation “rule”, to stop the value falling is the point of doing this. It is one of the most counter-intuitive rules that means you can get MORE by paying in LESS (one month less). But it is a rule and there to be used if you are aware of it.
(oh and it is rising to 28.6% in April 2024 – but it still doesn’t matter)
a guaranteed pension at Normal Pension Age (NPA);2) Guaranteed Pension at NPA
You do not forfeit your right to what you have already bought and paid for in the scheme. Indeed what you are doing is locking in what you hope is likely to give you a BETTER guaranteed pension, at the same NPA. (Opting out for a single month means you come back into the same scheme you would have been on if you hadn’t opted out. Only a break of more than 5 years can change that, AND only if they changed the scheme during that break)
the option to take a tax free lump sum;3) Tax-free Lump Sum entitlement
Unless they change the rules of the scheme this doesn’t happen. Again you would have to be out for more than 5 years and the change happen whilst you were out.
pension value protected through full index linking;4) Pension value protected through index linking.
Yes, this is the whole point of opting out, to lock in what have turned out, already, to be HIGHER valued salaries from the past before they get to old to be used. Indeed, opting out, for just one month, is protecting the pension’s value – it is staying in, without a break, that could lead to a loss of value if your best salaries get too old to be used in the calculation of the pension.
access to ill-health benefits, should I become permanently unable to teach;5) Access to ill-health benefits.
YES, this one has some merit and is the reason why many suggest taking out extra insurance for the month you are out of the scheme. However, note that you do not “lose” those benefits permanently, they are restored, in full, upon re-joining the scheme. Note also that for your to become so suddenly ill during a single month out that you were fully incapacitated would be highly unusual. You get 6 months full sick pay and 6 months half sick pay, so unless you are already exhausting your sick pay entitlement it would be highly unusual for you to suffer a loss in this regard during a single month out.
children’s and dependants’ pensions;6) Dependent’s Pensions
YES, again, this one has some merit and the point about insurance above applies.
Dependent pensions, those given when you die, are much better if you are “in” the scheme at the time you die. The pension is enhanced by adding on half of what you would have added to the pension between the date of your death and your state pension age.
Then a partner would get 37.5% of that and dependent children up to half what the partner would get.
in-service death grant;6) Death Grant
YES, same as above, if leaving money to your heirs is important then consider taking out extra insurance.
if you are a final salary member, you may also be giving up certain protections.7) Final Salary Benefits
This ONLY applies if you are out of the scheme for more than 5 years.
The benefit referred to here is being able to use future salaries in the calculation of the final salary pension.
Being out for a single month has NO impact.
Also, given that you are opting out because the salaries from 8 to 10 years are are better than your current salary it would take some significant pay rises in the future for your future salaries to catch up and then overtake the ones you are locking in anyway!

One Day Rule

Taking the pension “early” requires a break in employment…but how long a break?

The Regulations

The Pension scheme lays down very clearly how long a break is needed in order to take the pension before you reach you Normal Pension Age:

The Schedule in the regulations that covers taking “Early” retirement starts on page 121 and is called “Case E”

Case E: early retirement with actuarial adjustment
10.—(1) A person (P) falls within this paragraph if—
(a) P was in pensionable or excluded employment at any time after 29th March 2000,
(b) P ceases to be in such employment,

Page 121, Case E (10), (The Teachers’ Pensions Regulations 2010)

There are other parts to this regulation but the key part above is that you have to “cease” to be in employment. This is then expanded on to explain what is meant be “ceasing” in regulation 14, shown below:

For the purpose of this Schedule—
14 (a) a person is not to be treated as ceasing to be in pensionable or excluded employment unless at least one day passes without the person being in such employment after the person ceases to be in such employment;

Page 122, Case E (14), (The Teachers’ Pensions Regulations 2010)

Simply put, you can take the pension early so long as you are not employed as a teacher ON the day you have asked for the pension to begin.

School Policies

Unfortunately many schools and LAs get confused over what is a break in employment, using what is needed to reset other employment rights and not what is needed for an employee to take their pension. There is no legal barrier to an employer ending, with the agreement of the employee, a contract of employment on one day and starting a new contract after a gap of 24 hours.

A number of schools HR departments are rather lazy in this regard and instead of just doing what is required to enable the employee to take their pension insist on a longer break because of their misunderstanding of what is needed to constitute a “break” in employment. This is often based on other employment rights, such as avoiding having to repay redundancy payments, or entitlement to sick pay etc.

Unfortunately, if they do insist on a longer break there is very little the teacher can do in such circumstances since they are over a barrel as they do need the break in employment in order to start taking the pension before their normal pension age.

This is NOT the case for teachers who have already reached their scheme’s normal pension age. They can start payment of their final salary pensions simply by opting out of the pension scheme without needed any break in employment.

Proof of TPS Membership

So you found a dodgy break in your history?

Over 90% of problems with the pension can be traced back to incorrect records being sent in to the administrators by employers.

The responsibility for putting errors right lies with the employer, the administrators (TPS) of the scheme have very limited powers to alter the records they have been sent, mainly only in cases where the employer no longer exists.

How to correct the problem?

Contact your employer and explain the problem and ask them to correct it.

They may be willing to do that immediately but with many employers no longer keeping records for more than 7 years you may find that they want YOU to prove that they employed you and that you were in the pension scheme.


PAYSLIPS: The very best evidence is your pay slips that show that the school employed you AND that you were paying into the pension scheme. The problems if often that we no longer have our pay slips and it can be many years, decades even, in the past that the problem exists.

NATIONAL INSURANCE RECORDS (Pre-2016): HMRC keep records going back to the day you were issued with a number! As such you can ask them for this data and it is, for employment before 2016, very useful proof.

Before 2016 teachers who were paying into the TPS paid a special rate of National Insurance and so this is recorded by HMRC. It is called the “contracted out” rate. Ask TPS for your records of employment and the NI rate and it will show you, for periods up to 2016, both who employed you and whether you were in the TPS or not.

Look for the employer and the “Category Letter” for the employment as proof you were in the TPS

Getting your records

Make a “Subject Access Request”:

Retrospective AP – Complaint 13 Dec

In response to my complaint that no method for applying for retrospective was available I have received the following response.

There were 3 points I made that I felt needed to be addressed

  1. A proper form to be provided to apply for retrospective additional pension
  2. A calculator to be provided to allow members to see the costs for purchasing retrospective AP in the years 2015 to 2022.
  3. A range of options for taking payment for the purchase of AP

The first of these has now been addressed, with a form for applying for retrospective additional pension now available:

The second and third have been ignored, though the response I have received does give the costs for two ages.

Overtime – Refund, but NOW or LATER?

With the “rollback” taking effect every, eligible, teacher has had their 2015-2022 service returned to the final salary scheme and as a result “overtime” causes an issue for the administrators.

Overtime is NOT pensionable under the final salary scheme but IS pensionable under the career average scheme.

This means that if you had overtime in the remedy period you paid the pension scheme around 10% of that in return for some pension, just the same as you do for your normal wages. However, that should only happen if you are in the career average scheme and not if you are in the final salary scheme. The “solution” is for the scheme to refund you what you paid, but they really do not explain what you may be giving up if you take this refund.

This video goes into your real options and consequences.

Consultation – Interest on Back Pay

One of the details hidden away as a reference to another document and then a reference from that document is the amount of “interest” that will be added to amounts owed to members for underpaid lump sums and pension payments.

Under Part 8, “Liabilities and payment”, in Chapter 2. (Page 35 of the draft regulations)

66.—(1) The scheme manager must calculate interest on a relevant amount described in direction 15 of the PSP Directions 2022 in accordance with the provisions of directions 14 and 15 which apply to that description of relevant amount.

On page 40 of this document is the table that lays out what the “interest” amounts will be…and they fall a long way short of inflation!

For comparison I have added a column to this table showing the inflation factors that were in effect on the dates shown:

Pension Age Changes

The Teaching pension schemes are no strangers to changes in the pension age at which they are designed to be taken.

Before 2007 it was 60, then 65 and more recently has been brought into line with the state pension age. What is also changing is the MINIMUM pension age – the age at which you can, with a reduction, take the pension.

Link to the youTube Video

The GOOD news is that as the legislation stands the final salary schemes, those that teachers were in before 1 April 2015, retain the pension ages as they were – no real surprise there as that was the contractual obligation, teachers will get what they signed up and paid for.

The BAD news is that the newer, career average, scheme was written differently and so IS subject to the change. If you are not 55 before 6 April 2028 then you won’t be able to access this part of the pension until you reach 57. Also, the plan is to raise this further in the future to 58 and for it to then track 10 years behind the state pension age. Remember though that taking it 10 years early does mean you will be paid less to make up for the fact you will be paid it for longer.

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