Definitions of commonly used words and phrases relating to Civil Service pensions (NI).

Alphabetical listing



If you are re-employed by the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) after you have drawn your pension, we may reduce or stop paying your pension. This is because your new salary and your pension, when added together, should not normally be more than your salary when you retired. It is important to note that abatement only applies to PCSPS(NI) Pensions and alpha pensions are not subject to abatement.


ACP stands for Annual Compensation Payment.

Active member 

A member of an occupational pension scheme who is building up pension benefits from their present job.


A professional adviser that all pension schemes must appoint by law. The actuary assists the managers/trustees of the schemes on financial issues related to the funding of the scheme and conducts regular actuarial valuations.


6 April 2006, the date when the tax changes happened.


The person or body responsible for the day-to-day management of the pension scheme, including maintenance of members’ records, calculation and payment of benefits, and management of contributions.


If you leave the scheme and then come back, you can usually either keep the two periods of service separate or you can choose to join your two periods of service together – this is called aggregation.


The alpha scheme provides a defined benefit worked out on a Career Average basis. A defined benefit (DB) scheme provides retirement benefits that are based on your earnings and the length of time that you have been a member rather than the amount of money you pay in. A Career Average pension scheme means you build up a pension based on a percentage of how much you earned each year.

Annual Allowance (AA) 

The annual limit on pension saving attracting tax relief. 


When you want to draw your pension under partnership, you will use your pension ‘pot’ to buy an annuity which will provide your income during retirement.

Authorised payments 

The only type of payments your scheme can make after A-day without being subject to extra tax.


Additional Voluntary Contributions. This is a method you can use to top up your pension. You pay additional contributions to a pension provider – this should then build up to a fund. When you retire, you use your fund to buy an annuity – a pension for life – which is on top of your Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) Pension Scheme pension.



A beneficiary is the person or people who you decide should receive your lump sum after you die.

Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE) 

When your pension benefits come into payment. May not be the same as the date on which they are awarded (for instance, if you resign and freeze your pension for payment at age 60).



Civil Service Pensions, we are responsible for the administration of the NICS Pension Schemes.


A final-salary occupational pension scheme which forms part of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Northern Ireland) [PCSPS(NI)] arrangements. Its terms and conditions are those which applied to the PCSPS(NI) on 30 September 2002.

classic plus

A final salary occupational pension scheme. The benefits are a combination of your Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Northern Ireland) [PCSPS(NI)] classic benefits up to 30 September 2002 and the equivalent of premium benefits from 1 October 2002.

Contracting out 

Prior to 6 April 2016 the NICS Pension Schemes were contracted out of the state second pension. This meant that employees and employers paid National Insurance at a lower rate. From 6 April 2016 employees and employers pay the standard rate of National Insurance.for you. 


Deferred member

Someone who has left Civil Service Pensions and has not yet claimed their pension.

Defined benefit scheme

A scheme in which the benefits provided are calculated by a fixed formula and do not depend on the contributions paid or on investment performance. The most common form of this type of arrangement is a final salary plan, in which benefits are based on a proportion of the individual’s final pensionable salary at retirement for each year of pensionable service within the scheme.

Defined contribution scheme

Also known as a money purchase scheme, this is an arrangement in which the benefits due to a member are based on contributions made by the member and/or the organisation, together with any interest/investment returns. The member usually uses the accumulated funds at retirement to purchase an annuity.


A dependant can be your husband, wife, partner, children or anyone else who relies on you financially.

Dependent child

Any child who is dependent on you and who is under 17 or receiving full-time education or training. Dependency means that you are providing financial support to the child. A dependent child can include: ·

  • your stepchildren
  • adopted and illegitimate children
  • your grandchildren (for example, if your own child has died before you and you look after their children)
  • your own brothers and sisters
  • the children of your dead brother or sister

If you die after leaving classic, the child must have been dependent on you when your service ended and when you died.



A process through which some of the pension benefits due to a member are paid to his/her ex-spouse, as directed by a court at the time of their divorce.

Earnings cap

The salary limit, set by the HMRC, on which pension contributions and benefits are based. It covers those who joined their pension scheme on or after 1st June 1989. 

Enhanced Protection (EP)

Allows you to register to effectively maintain the current value of your pension benefits just before A-day. The detailed rules are complex.

Enhancement and enhanced service 

If you retire early because of ill health, die in service, or are made redundant, we may increase the number of years you have in the scheme. This is called enhancement.


This is the total of your possessions when you die.


Final pensionable earnings

This is your pensionable earnings when you retire, and on which we base your pension under classic, classic plus and premium.

Final salary scheme

Another term for a defined benefit plan, in which benefits are based on a percentage of the member’s final pensionable salary at retirement for each year of pensionable service in the pension plan

Freestanding AVC (or FSAVC)

The facility to pay AVCs to the financial institution of your choice to secure additional benefits for yourself and/or any dependants. FSAVC schemes provide retirement benefits on a money purchase basis.  


Guaranteed minimum pension

Prior to 6 April 2016 the NICS pension schemes were contracted out of the State Second Pension (S2P), which was previously known as State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS). If you have reckonable service before 6 April 1997 you will have built up rights to a GMP which must be paid as part of your NICS pension scheme pension. We will pay you a pension which is guaranteed to be at least as much as the GMP pension you have built up.



Income draw down 

This is an option to draw income from your fund and delay buying an annuity.  





This is an investment approach where money is switched from company shares to safer investments as you get nearer to retirement.   

Lifetime Allowance (LTA) 

The limit on total pension saving eligible for tax relief. 

LTA charge

The extra tax payable if your benefits at the BCE exceed your remaining LTA.


Mobile grade

You are in a mobile grade, if you are an executive officer or higher and your employer expects you to: move to any post within reasonable travelling distance from your home; or take up detached duty. If you were in mobile grade on 1st April 1987, you may be entitled to better redundancy terms.

Money and Pensions Service

The service was launched in 2019, combining The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS), Pension Wise and The Money Advice Service.

Money purchase

Money purchase is one of the terms used to describe a pension where you pay contributions into a fund which is invested over the years until you retire. You can then use the fund to buy an income each year when you retire.


Notional enhancement

(only premium and classic plus)  If you are made redundant and leave with an Annual Compensation Payment (ACP), we may enhance (increase) the service on which your ACP is based. However, we do not enhance your pension in the same way. This is called a notional enhancement. 


This is an occupational defined benefit pension arrangement of the PCSPS(NI). It provides a pension linked to your pensionable earnings which is reviewed annually in line with the cost of living. 



partnership pension account 

A new defined contribution (money purchase) plan; available to all members of the NICSPS.

Pension age

This is the earliest age you can take your pension without it being reduced for early payment. The normal pension age in classic, classic plus and premium is 60. In nuvos it is age 65 and in alpha it is linked to the members state pension age.

Pensionable allowances

Allowances which are included in your pay and which count for pension. Examples include shift duty allowance and substitution pay. Overtime payments are not pensionable, but overtime premium payments are pensionable.

Pensionable bonuses

Bonus payments do not normally count towards your pension, but your employer may have agreed that they can (in exceptional circumstances). Bonuses are not included in 'permanent' pensionable earnings and we have to average them out over a number of years when working out your final pensionable pay.

Pensionable earnings

Pensionable earnings are all earnings which could count towards your pension. They can include non-cash items, for example uniforms or accommodation.


A defined benefit ('final salary') scheme. Staff in post up to 30 September 2002 had the choice of transferring from the old PCSPS(NI) (now classic) to premium.


If you leave the scheme with more than two years' qualifying service, you can leave the pension benefits you have built up in the scheme. We will then normally pay you a pension when you reach pension age. Or you can choose to transfer your preserved pension before you retire.

Primary Protection (PP)

This allows you to register for a personalised LTA if your pension benefits just before A-day exceed the initial value of the LTA (£1.5m)

Public Sector Transfer Club

This is a club for pension schemes which offer special terms for transferring benefits into the classic, classic plus and premium arrangements. Members include schemes run for the NHS, local government and teachers. Schemes which look like the Civil Service scheme, are known as 'by analogy' schemes.


Qualifying service

This reflects the amount of time you have been a member of the pension scheme and it qualifies you for certain benefits. For many people qualifying service is the same as their reckonable service. But for some people, like part timers, their qualifying service will be more than their reckonable service.


Reckonable service

Reckonable service is the years and days that count towards your pension. Generally, the days that you are a member of the scheme reckon towards your pension. Things like strike days and career breaks do not reckon towards your pension.  


Stakeholder pension

A new form of personal pension, available from 1st April 2001 to everyone under the age of 75 (even children). It is not necessary to have any earnings to contribute. Even those in an occupational pension scheme can contribute. The annual management charge must be no more than 1 per cent of the member’s fund, and additional charges for services such as advice must be optional and clearly identified.

State pension age 

The age at which pensions are payable from the State.


TPAS (The Pensions Advisory Service)

An independent organisation which gives free advice to members of the public who have a problem concerning an occupational or personal pension scheme. TPAS will also assist with general enquiries on State pensions. In 2019 TPAS merged with Pension Wise and The Money Advice Service to form The Money and Pensions Service.  


Unauthorised payments 

Any payments made by your scheme which are not ‘authorised payments’. Depending on the type of payment, either or both of the recipient and the scheme may have to pay extra tax.



Widow or widower/Civil Partner

The person who you are legally married to or in a civil partnership with when you die. An ex-husband, ex-wife or ex-civil partner you are legally divorced from cannot receive a widow’s or widower’s pension. 




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