Step-up pensions, Bridging pensions, Pension Deductions & Offsets
Step-up pensions, Bridging Pensions or Pension Deductions generally involve the way your pension benefit interacts with the Basic State Pension Scheme or its obligation to provide a minimum pension as a consequence of the scheme being contracted-out between 1978 and 1997. They only apply for a fixed period or from a fixed date after your pension started to be paid.
Step-up pensions and Bridging Pensions may also be used as a method of ‘levelling-up’ pension benefit due to Equalisation (which addressed most sex discrimination issues in pension schemes). Not all defined benefit schemes operate Step-up pensions, Bridging Pensions, Pension Deductions or Offsets, but it is important to identify whether yours does, and if it does, whether it applies to your benefits.
Step-up pensions, Bridging Pensions or Pension Deductions usually apply when pension benefit is paid either:
- before Normal Retirement Date as an Early Payment or
- before State Pension Age (i.e. if your Normal Retirement Date is 60, but your State Pension Age is 65)
and then no longer apply once you have reached State Pension Age.
Each of these terms could be described as follows:
Step-up Pension: as its name tends to suggest, is an addition to your pension benefit at a given age. Your pension scheme calculates the amount to be added to your pension and should explain to you the reason for the Step-up.
Bridging Pension: would usually be in the form of a ‘temporary’ pension payable between two dates. The reason for the Bridging Pension should be provided by your pension scheme who will also have calculated the amount.
Pension Deduction: would see your pension benefits reduce by an amount at a particular age. It could be levied for a number of reasons. The reason for the Pension Deduction should be provided by your pension scheme who will also calculate the amount.
Offset: would usually involve the process of a pension scheme granting pension increases (escalation) between early payment age and State Pension Age and setting these against any increases in Guaranteed Minimum Pension you may have if you were Contracted-out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme between 1978 and 1997. The amount of Offset would be calculated by your pension scheme.
You should have been notified of any changes to your pension in payment, at the time you started to receive it, and when each escalation increase arises.
Pension Protection Fund issues
The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) was set up in April 2005 to pay compensation to members of defined benefits schemes whose sponsoring employer failed. A pension scheme must undergo an assessment by the PPF before members become eligible for compensation.
Where a scheme is accepted by the PPF, members who have already reached their scheme’s Normal Retirement Age will receive 100% compensation up to a ceiling, currently £30,856.35 at age 65 (effective from April 2008).
The PPF administrator may also review the eligibility of members to ill-health early retirement benefits and could indeed terminate payment.
All other members – including those who have received their pension from their pension scheme under early payment terms – will receive 90% compensation (i.e. currently a maximum of 90% of £30,856.35 = £27,770.72 from April 2008).
Pension increases during retirement from the PPF for all pensioner members may also be lower than the increases you would have received from your pension scheme before it entered into the PPF.
For more details, go to the PPF website.
Summary & Key Points
When making enquiries about your pension benefit it is very important that you make it clear whether you are a pensioner member rather than an active member or a preserved member. Active, preserved and pensioner are different classes of membership of a pension scheme and any definitions and paragraphs contained within your Scheme Rules or scheme literature relating to any benefit may differ considerably between these categories.
For each pension benefit you need to consider the following items:
- Will the rate or method of pension increases you are receiving change at a particular age? (e.g. if you reach State Pension Age after you commenced drawing your pension benefit).
- Will there be any Step-up Pension, Bridging Pension, Pension Deduction or Offset?
- Keep informed. Your scheme may modify benefits and Rules. Legislation may change. Your circumstances may alter.
This is not an authoritative document. Seek professional advice from an appropriately experienced and qualified adviser.
Early payment v1.2 Pensioner
Last updated 07/12/2006