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Start planning now for a long and enjoyable retirement.

As life expectancy increases and pension values change, it is more important than ever to make sure you plan for your retirement.

There are three main types of pension provision: 

  • State pension - when you are working your National Insurance contributions are counted towards your future State Pension entitlement; 
  • Occupational pension - depending on where you work, different occupational pension options are also available to help you save for your retirement, e.g. NHS Pension; 
  • Private pension - from a bank or other financial provider. 

This information cannot be used as advice on any course of action to take, or not to take. We recommend that you take independent financial advice on your retirement planning needs and arrangements. This may include using the services of Lighthouse Financial Advice through RCN Xtra.

Contribution changes

The consultation on member contributions to the NHS pension scheme has closed. Our position was to resist changes that would negatively impact our members. However, the changes were proposed and then imposed and will take effect from October 2022 and April 2023. The changes will have different impacts on scheme members depending on how much they earn. For more information see our update.

Abatement extension

The Department of Health and Social Care is currently consulting on an extension to the abatement relaxation within the NHS pension scheme. The RCN position is that restoring abatement arrangements is likely to decrease the available workforce. Our submission to the consultation made the point in the context of both the pandemic and a staffing crisis, any measure that has potential to reduce number in the workforce is not in the interests of staff or patients. The Department has signalled abatement relation will continue until at least October 2022. 

 For information on retired nurses returning to work for the pandemic, please see our COVID-19 FAQs.


Please see our guidance on the NHS pension scheme for information on: 

  • Changes to the contributions you pay into the NHS pension scheme from October 2022 
  • Auto enrolment (including Bank staff) 
  • Special Class Status
  • Widening access and Fair deal. 

We also have an advice guide on Age Discrimination in reformed public service pension schemes - including the NHS Pension Scheme (McCloud).

This is a way of saving for your retirement that’s arranged by your employer. Normally both you and your employer make contributions to the scheme. The money paid into the pension scheme is used to pay you an income after retirement.  

Please visit for more information on workplace and personal pensions. 

Further information regarding your specific occupational pension can be obtained from your employer's payroll or human resources department. If you work for a Local Authority you should have access to the Local Government Pension Scheme. University staff may be covered by the Universities Superannuation Scheme

Many occupational pension schemes make provision for employees who leave work early due to redundancy or ill health and also pay life assurance benefits. Employers should provide specific guidance on these matters. 

Auto enrolment 

The Pensions Act 2008 established new duties on employers to offer a workplace pension to eligible staff who are automatically enrolled into the scheme but can subsequently opt out if they wish to. Both employers and staff pay into the scheme and staff receive tax relief on their contributions. This is in addition to any state pension retirement benefit. 

Employers can choose any scheme that meets the necessary criteria and employees can opt out of the auto-enrolled pension provision. For more information on your specific occupational or workplace pension, speak to your manager or your employer's payroll or human resources department. 

Visit for more information on workplace and personal pensions and auto enrolment. 

Occupational pension and taxation 

Contributions made into occupational pension schemes are usually exempted from income tax, i.e. they are paid from salary before tax is calculated and deducted. However, once they are in payment, such pensions are taxed as any other income would be according to the current tax thresholds. 

High earners and those with large pension pots need to be aware of particular aspects of pension taxation. For more information, please see 

Please see our advice guide on the state pension which outlines current issues relating to the equalisation of the state pension age between men and women, including details of a campaign led by the Women Against State Pension Increases (WASPI) and associated activities. 

Private pensions are like workplace pensions but are set up by you rather than your employer. You can set up regular contributions, e.g. monthly, or make one-off payments into your fund. Your pension provider will add any necessary tax relief. 

The money you put into your personal pension will usually be invested in a range of assets like shares, bonds, property and cash.  When you start your pension, you'll probably get a choice of pension funds to select from, based on how much risk you are willing to take. 

When you reach the age of 55, you can take your private pension as a lump sum, use it to buy an annuity (a guaranteed income) or leave it invested and take out cash amounts when you need to via drawdown. 

If you need financial advice, please see our sections on independent financial advice and additional resources. 

Pensions and retirement planning are both areas that require specialist advice. If you are considering alternative pension arrangements or additional pensions, then you may benefit from talking to a financial adviser. As a member of the RCN you are entitled to a complimentary, no obligation financial review from Lighthouse Financial Advice.

Lighthouse can provide advice to overseas RCN members provided they are paying UK income tax. Please have your UK National Insurance and RCN membership number ready. 

In the first instance, any problems relating to your pension should be directed to your pension provider or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if your query relates to the state pension.  

Many secondary sources of advice and/or support are only able to once you have exhausted your own pension provider’s dispute resolution process. Please see the additional resources section below for more information.  

If you need a pension forecast or have any questions about your pension, please contact your pension provider in the first instance. 

If there is a dispute with your employer or pension provider, please contact us.

Independent financial advice 

Pensions and planning for retirement are both areas that require specialist advice. If you are considering alternative pension arrangements or additional pensions, then you may benefit from talking to a professional financial adviser.

As a member of the RCN you are entitled to a complimentary, no obligation financial review from Lighthouse Financial Advice. Lighthouse can provide advice to overseas RCN members provided they are paying UK income tax. Please have your UK National Insurance and RCN membership number ready. 

The lifetime allowance is the limit set by government on how much tax-free pension value members can accrue. This allowance is currently £1,073,100 and has been frozen at this point until April 2026. It is possible to continue accruing pension value beyond the lifetime allowance; however, pension value accrued in excess of the allowance is subject to a tax deduction. 

Some companies are singling out pension savers and claiming that they can help them access their pension fund before their minimum pension age without any tax consequences. Promises of early cash are likely to result in serious tax consequences. If you access this type of scheme you are risking tax charges and penalties that could amount to more than half the value of your pension savings. Please be extremely cautious if you are contacted and always seek independent financial advice, never be rushed into making a pension transfer. RCN members can access professional financial advice from Lighthouse Financial Advice. 

What to watch out for: 

  • Websites encouraging visitors to access part of their pension fund immediately by transferring it into a new scheme, these sites are usually fraudulent and cost the UK more than half a billion pounds to date. 
  • Unsolicited contact over the phone or via text message from companies offering a ‘loan’, ‘saving advance’ or ‘cash back’ from your pension. 
  • Advisers or ‘introducers’ offering upfront cash incentives, who may be forceful or insistent on speedy decisions. 
  • Not being informed about the potential reductions of your pension fund, tax charges and penalties. 
  • Failure to provide the relevant documentation and information about the transfer, the terms and conditions and how your pension will be paid when you retire. 

If you think you have been made a fraudulent offer, you can report this to Action fraud. Further information is available from The Pensions Regulator and Money Helper.

This network gives eligible members the opportunity to feed into the important work of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), which the RCN is affiliated with. The network is made up of RCN members who are over the age of 55 and receive a state or occupational pension. For more information, please see the National Pensioners Convention Network page. 

  • Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates most firms and individuals that advise, sell and arrange financial products and services. Any financial advisers should be registered with the FCA.
  • Money Helper is widely recognised as a leading source of free information, advice and guidance on company, personal and stakeholder schemes, including the miss-selling of a pension or lost pensions. They can also take on casework where there has been a dispute with a pension provider that may or may not lead to an investigation by the Pensions Ombudsman.
  • Pensions Regulator supervises the pension industry and employers who administer pension schemes.
  • Pension Ombudsman investigates complaints and disputes about the way that pension schemes are run, but can only take referrals once a pension scheme's dispute resolution process has been exhausted.

For more general advice and information you can contact one of the following: 

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