The first national pension scheme specially designed for firefighters was introduced in 1926. But it applied only to regular whole-time firefighters.
It was not until 6 April 2006 when the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006 (FPS 2006) as set out in the Firefighters' Pension Scheme (England) Order 2006 came into effect, that retained firefighters could become Scheme members. Those who were serving on 6 April 2006 could join with effect from that date, or a later date.
The previous Scheme – the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 (FPS 1992) – continues in force for regular firefighters who wish to remain members of that Scheme.
The exclusion of retained firefighters from the FPS 1992 was challenged under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 and this resulted in a settlement which allowed certain retained firefighters with service between 1 July 2000 and 6 April 2006 to have "special" membership of the FPS 2006 based on their employment during this period. They could not be admitted to the FPS 1992 because that is now a closed Scheme. However, the rules of the FPS 2006 were adapted for special members so that, in places, they reflect the rules of the FPS 1992.
The relevant amendments were made to the FPS 2006 in April 2014. They have retrospective effect for those who are eligible to join under the special terms, who elect for special membership, and who pay the appropriate contributions.
The FPS 2006 is a statutory, public service pension scheme made under section 34 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.
It is a final salary scheme. This means that pensions are based on a proportion of the pensionable pay of the Scheme member in (normally) his/her final year of service; the proportion depends upon the number of years of service at the date of leaving. Whilst this type of pension arrangement lends itself easily to the work patterns of regular firefighters with set contractual hours and standard rates of pay, it is not so straightforward to accommodate the variable hours and pay of firefighters who undertake retained duties.
The intent is that there should be equitable treatment of regular and retained firefighters within the benefit structure.
The FPS 2006 is a registered pension scheme for the purposes of the Finance Act 2004. This means that HM Revenue and Customs allow certain tax concessions. Pension contributions attract tax relief and certain benefits, provided they are within set limits, are exempt from tax charges.
Unlike occupational pension schemes in the private sector, the FPS 2006 does not have trustees, nor does it have the type of pension fund which uses investments to help meet its liabilities. Although each fire and rescue authority is required to maintain a “Firefighters’ Pension Fund” which –
- receives contributions from firefighter members and from the employing fire and rescue authority,
- pays out benefits to and in respect of members, and
- makes and receives transfer payments to and from other pension schemes
the authority does not have the power to invest the money. If the Fund has insufficient money to meet all of its pension liabilities, the Secretary of State will make up the shortfall; if the Fund is in surplus, the Secretary of State will take the excess to cover any shortfall in the Funds of other authorities.
As a retained firefighter who has elected to be a "special firefighter member" of the 2006 Firefighters' Pension Scheme (England), you belong to a public service scheme which provides very good benefits.
These benefits include the following –
- an inflation-proofed pension based on your final pay and length of pensionable service
- an option to convert part of the pension to a lump sum
- early payment of benefits if you have to retire on grounds of permanent ill-health,
- death-in-service cover providing a lump sum death grant equal to twice pensionable pay
- a pension for your widow(er), civil partner, or nominated partner
- children's pensions.