The Public Service Pensions & Judicial Offices Act 2022 provides the framework for a deferred choice underpin within schemes. Legislative Consent Motions passed by the NI Assembly mean these provisions apply for devolved schemes in NI. All eligible members will be treated equally and will be able to choose to receive pension scheme benefits from either legacy or reformed schemes for the remedy period. Where necessary, payments will be backdated to 2015.
Provisions for the deferred choice will be implemented by 1 October 2023 for all members. Once regulations have been laid, schemes are able to implement provisions for deferred choice earlier than October 2023 where it is possible to do so.
Schemes have carried out consultations on more detailed scheme-specific changes to prospective regulations and will carry out consultations on retrospective scheme regulations.
Where the changes legislated for through the Act produce disproportionate tax results that cannot be resolved through powers provided in the PSPJOA 2022, further changes will be made in the tax and scheme regulations.
What are the next steps now the legislation has received Royal Assent?
The Act provides that the provisions for the deferred choice underpin will be implemented by 1 October 2023, or earlier where schemes are able to make scheme regulations and processes ahead of that date.
What detail will scheme regulations contain?
Scheme regulations to move members to the reformed scheme from 1 April 2022 have been recently consulted on, and were made and laid in March 2022. These ensure members are placed on an equal footing from this point onwards.
Additional scheme regulations will be drafted and consulted on over the next 18 months. These regulations will be used for the various purposes listed throughout the Act, including the process by which a member can make a choice or “election” to receive new scheme benefits, for interest to be paid to a member or scheme on any amounts owed to or by the scheme, to make provision for pension credit members, to make provision for members to receive remediable service statements, to provide for members who have made additional voluntary contributions and for members who have already benefited from an immediate detriment remedy.
Where it is particularly important that scheme regulations are consistent, the Act will require them to be made in line with Department of Finance Directions. The powers to make scheme regulations are explained in the Delegated Powers Memorandum and Explanatory Notes for the Act.