You are an 'active member' if you are currently working for an employer covered by the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) pension schemes, providing you have not chosen to opt out of the NICS pension schemes.

I’ve read that some pension schemes are selling members' data. Does this affect my Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) pension?

Civil Service Pensions (CSP) treats the information it holds on members’ pension schemes with the utmost confidentiality and never sells information to a third party.

How do I claim my pension?

The What to expect when you claim your civil service pension leaflet explains the process for claiming your pension.

To start the process you should speak to your employer at least four but not more than six months before you want to claim your pension.

How do I change my death benefit nominee?

You will need to complete a new death benefit nomination form and send this to CSP.

How can I find out what scheme I am in?

You can find out what scheme you are in on your annual benefit statement.

How can I find more information about the pension scheme?

You can find more information in the scheme guides:

What is my Normal Pension Age (NPA)?

NPA is the earliest age that a scheme member can usually take their pension benefits without reduction.

  • NPA in classic, classic plus and premium is usually age 60
  • NPA in nuvos is usually age 65
  • NPA in alpha is the same as your State Pension age

Can I claim my pension benefits before my Normal Pension Age (NPA)?

You must have reached your minimum pension age and have left or taken partial retirement to take your pension. To start the process you should speak to your employer at least four months before you want to claim your pension.

If you claim your pension early it will be reduced because it is likely to be paid for a longer period of time. The earlier you claim your pension the greater the reduction will be.

If you want access to the pension you have built up, but are not ready to fully retire, partial retirement may be an option for you.

What is partial retirement?

Partial retirement is for members who want to start accessing their pension and move gradually from work to retirement.

Partial retirement is available for all active members subject to agreement from your employer but you must:

  • be over your minimum pension age
  • have built up some scheme pension
  • be able to reduce your earnings by at least 20 per cent by reducing hours or grade

Because partial retirement involves making changes to your job to reduce your earnings, you must have the agreement of your employer. If your employer agrees to the changes you can apply.

What happens to my pension if I take unpaid leave?

Unpaid leave can be a career break, a day where you strike as part of a Union, or periods of sickness where you cannot get any pay because you have been off for an extended period of time.

Having unpaid time off work does have an effect on your pension. Because you are not earning, you will not build up any pension.

If you are receiving Sick Pay at Pension Rate (SPPR) even though you are being paid, you will not build up any pension. Your employer decides if you should receive SPPR instead of being on an unpaid absence.

What happens if I am too ill to work?

If you have to leave work before your Normal Pension Age (NPA) because of your health, you can apply for ill-health retirement.

You must have enough qualifying service to be eligible for a pension. This means that you have worked for an employer that offers membership of the NICS pension schemes, and been a member for at least two years.

Your health must, in the opinion of the Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA), permanently prevent you from being able to do your current job or any other similar role.

To apply for ill-health retirement, you should speak to your employer.

How do I obtain an estimate of the value of my pension for my divorce proceedings?

You should send your request in writing to CSP.

How can I increase my pension?

You can increase your pension by buying Added Pension and/or contributing to the Northern Ireland Civil Service Additional Voluntary Contributions Scheme (NICSAVCS).

In alpha, you can also contribute to an EPA, which allows you to pay more on top of your normal pension contributions to build up an EPA portion of your alpha pension that can be paid one, two or three years earlier than your NPA without any early payment reduction.

Further information can be found in the scheme guides:

What is an AVC?

Additional Voluntary Contributions are extra payments you can make into a separate defined contribution pension fund with one of the scheme’s AVC providers. The amount of pension you can get when you retire depends on how much you pay and how your fund is invested.

What pension benefits will my dependants receive in the event of my death?

Dependants’ pension benefits can differ by scheme and according to individual circumstances. Information regarding both adult and child dependant pensions can be found in the scheme guides:

How do I inform you of my nominated partner?

classic plus, premium and nuvos members can nominate a partner to receive a partner pension in the event of their death by completing a Partner declaration form. You should send the completed form to CSP.

How much lump sum will my death benefit nominee(s) receive in the event of my death?

The amount of death benefit lump sum can differ by scheme and according to individual circumstances. Information regarding death benefit lump sum payments can be found in the scheme guides:

How do I report a bereavement?

You should contact CSP.

You will also need to send an original or certified copy of the death certificate to CSP who will review any monies due to or from the estate or beneficiaries. If the deceased was in receipt of a pension, on receipt of the notification, pension payments will be suspended.

Please refer to the scheme guides for more detailed information.

How much are my pension scheme contributions?

Pension contributions are a percentage of your pensionable earnings. From 1 April 2015 there has been a single set of contribution rates across the NICS pensions schemes, regardless of whether members are in classic, classic plus, premium, nuvos or alpha. The current contribution rates can be viewed at the link below: 

If you are a member of partnership, your employer makes a contribution to your pension related to your age. The level of contributions you make on top of that is up to you. If you do choose to pay partnership contributions, your employer will also match the amount you pay, up to 3 per cent.

Can I opt out of the pension scheme?

Yes. You should read the opting out factsheet, which is attached to the opting out form, to understand what you will be giving up should you leave the scheme.

This factsheet explains what will happen to members in different schemes who opt out and back in again at different times.

If you want to understand more about what opting out of the pension scheme means for you, you should contact an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). You can find tips on finding an IFA by visiting the Financial Conduct Authority website.

How do I update my personal details?

You should tell your employer / HRConnect about any changes to your personal data, including your marital status. Your employer / HRConnect sends these changes to CSP on a monthly basis. CSP cannot accept these changes directly. However, a form is available on the CSP(NI) section of this website for you to notify CSP of a change of address.

What happens to my previous pension now I'm in alpha?

The alpha scheme guide is the place to go for information about your pension.

Towards the end of section 1A of the scheme guide – ‘An overview of alpha’, you will find ‘An overview of alpha and the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Northern Ireland) [PCSPS(NI)]’ where you can find information about how your classic, classic plus, premium or nuvos pension is affected once you have moved into alpha.

You will find information like this in most sections of the guide, highlighting whether your benefits in previous schemes are treated differently now you’re in alpha. It is also a good place to start if you need more detailed information about how the features of alpha work alongside the features of the scheme you moved from.

Some members will not have moved into alpha yet, and some may not move at all. Find out more about how the alpha scheme will affect you.

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