The first national pension scheme specifically designed for firefighters was introduced in 1926.
The Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2015 (FPS 2015) as set out in the Firefighters' Pension Scheme (England) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 1 April 2015.
It is the occupational pension scheme for those who are first appointed by an English fire and rescue authority as operational firefighters on or after that date, or who are transferred from an earlier version of the scheme.
The two previous schemes – the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 (FPS 1992) and the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006 (FPS 2006) – continue in force for firefighters who were serving before that date and who are eligible to remain members of their earlier scheme.
They also continue in force for the previous pension rights of "transition members", i.e. those who are compulsorily transferred from an earlier scheme to FPS 2015; the pension they have built up at the point of transfer is protected and will still be available for payment, reflecting some of the terms of their previous scheme.
FPS 2015 is a statutory, defined benefit, career average, public service pension scheme made under the Public Service Pensions Act 2013. Career average scheme benefits are calculated based on a proportion of pay for each year of membership.
Unlike occupational pension schemes in the private sector, FPS 2015 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 maintains 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
an 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 takes the excess to cover the shortfall in other Funds.
FPS 2015 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; certain benefits, provided they are within set limits, are exempt from tax charges.
Membership of FPS 2015 is open to any person taking up employment as a firefighter with a fire and rescue authority on or after 1 April 2015 on terms under which he or she is, or may be, required to engage in firefighting, and whose role includes resolving operational incidents, or leading and supporting others in the resolution of such incidents.
Enrolment into the Scheme is automatic on appointment. It does not matter what duty system you are contracted to work – you can be a whole-time or part-time regular firefighter, a retained duty system firefighter or a volunteer. If, at a later time, you are moved to a firefighting role that does not include resolution of operational incidents, you can remain a Scheme member provided there is continuity of service.
Firefighters serving before 1 April 2015 and members of FPS 1992 or FPS 2006, will have been transferred compulsorily to FPS 2015 on 1 April 2015 unless on 1 April 2012 they were:
(a) a member of FPS 1992 and within 10 years of the FPS 1992 normal pension age (55),
(b) a member of FPS 2006 and within 10 years of the FPS 2006 normal retirement age (60), or
(c) a member of FPS 1992 or FPS 2006 and covered by "tapered protection" rules.
Those in categories (a) and (b) above can remain a member of their current scheme until retirement; those in category (c) can remain a member of their current Scheme until they reach the date at which their tapered protection ends.
Those who are compulsorily transferred from an earlier scheme, whether at 1 April 2015, or at a later date under tapered protection rules, are considered eligible to be members of FPS 2015 even if they no longer satisfy the operational requirements set out above, provided that there is continuity of service.
Firefighter members of FPS 1992 or FPS 2006 who choose to opt out of their current Scheme can join FPS 2015 if they meet the operational and legal requirements for admission
If you are, or become, a member of FPS 2015, the benefits provided by the Scheme include the following –
- an inflation-proofed pension calculated on a proportion of pay for each year of membership.
- an option to convert part of the pension to a lump sum
- payment of pension before normal retirement age if
- you have to retire on grounds of permanent ill-health,
- you choose to take early retirement or partial retirement
- you are given employer-initiated early retirement.
- death-in-service cover providing a lump sum death benefit equal to three times final pensionable pay
- a pension for your surviving spouse, civil partner, or eligible cohabiting partner
- pensions for eligible children.
FPS 2015 is the occupational pension scheme available to operational firefighters first appointed on or after 1 April 2015.
Serving firefighters appointed before this date may already have pension rights in an earlier Firefighters' Pension Scheme, i.e.
- the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 (FPS 1992), or
- the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006 (FPS 2006).
Some of these firefighters will have been compulsorily transferred to FPS 2015 with effect from 1 April 2015, some will be transferred at a later date, and some will have the right to remain a member of their earlier Scheme until retirement.