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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Workplace pensions and changes in your personal circumstances

When you have a workplace pension, it’s natural to think about whether it continues to be right for you if your circumstances change. What seems affordable at one point in your life may be harder later. Find out how a change at work or home may affect your workplace pension.

Moving jobs and your pension

Your pension belongs to you, even if you leave your current employer or if you are an agency or temporary worker.

If you want to, you may be able to continue making contributions after you’ve left your job. Contact whoever runs your pension scheme to find out if this is possible, if there'll be a cost involved and if you will get tax relief.

Or, if you get a new workplace pension, you can look into combining your old pension with your new one. Your new pension scheme provider will be able to tell you if this is possible and, if so, how to go about doing it.

If you can’t or don’t want to do either of the options above, then what happens to your pension depends on the scheme rules. Check with whoever runs your pension scheme.

Lots of people move jobs several times in their working lives, so it’s important to keep track of the pensions you have. Keeping your statements will help you do this. If you have lost track of a pension, the government’s Pension Tracing Service could help provide you with contact details for that pension.

You had a workplace pension in a previous job

You could leave it where it is. You will get it when you reach the age your pension scheme gives people their pension, so long as you were in the pension scheme long enough. This is often 60 or 65. To find out exactly what age this is check with whoever runs your pension scheme. The length of time needed will be in the scheme rules. Or you might be able to combine it with your new workplace pension. If you are considering doing this, you need to check with whoever runs your pension scheme if this is possible and how to go about doing it.

If you do decide to leave your pension where it is, you might not be entitled to some pension scheme benefits. For example, 'death in service' benefits may only apply to pension scheme members who are still employed by the company. If your workplace pension is a defined contribution pension scheme your pension pot will continue to be invested. You will continue to receive yearly statements and forecasts on how it is performing.

If your workplace pension is a defined benefit pension scheme, your benefits will be revalued on a regular basis to ensure they keep up with inflation.

If you need help with deciding on your pension options, The Pensions Advisory Service might be a good starting point.

If you move address

It is important that you tell whoever runs your pension scheme that you have a new address.

You leave your job to become self-employed or stop working

You should think about what income you’ll have to live on in later life.

Your employer will stop paying into your workplace pension, but you might be able to continue contributing, if you want. You would need to contact whoever runs your pension scheme to find out if this is possible and if there will be a cost involved.

Alternatively, you might want to set up your own personal pension, or put other plans in place for when you retire. You could choose a personal or stakeholder pension available from a variety of pension providers. Alternatively you may wish to consider using the National Employment Saving Trust (NEST). NEST is a trust-based workplace pension scheme developed to meet the needs of most people.

You should consider seeking independent financial advice. You could also contact the Money Advice Service or The Pensions Advisory Service.

If you die before retiring

The rules vary depending on the type of workplace pension scheme you are enrolled into. You may be able to nominate (choose) someone to receive the money in the event of your death. Contact whoever runs your pension to find out whether you can do this and how much money the person you nominate might get.

If you can nominate someone, whoever runs your pension should ask you to confirm in writing who that person is. If they don’t do this when you first join the pension, you should ask them for a nomination form. You can change your nomination at any time. If your circumstances change, you should keep it up to date.

Please note: although in most cases the money will go to whoever is nominated, organisations who run pension schemes are allowed to pay it to someone else if this is needed. For example, if the person nominated can't be found or has died.

Taking your money out of your pension pot before you retire

Currently, most people cannot take money from any pension scheme until they are at least 55. The exact age you can have your pension depends on the rules of the scheme. To find out, check with whoever runs your pension scheme.

Taking a break from paying into your pension

If you want to stop paying into your workplace pension, you can do so.

You may want to speak to your employer about what happens when you stop paying into your workplace pension and how to start paying in again.

Reducing your payments

You might be able to reduce how much you pay into your pension. The rules of your pension scheme would have to allow it and your employer would have to agree to it. Usually, you’re only allowed to do this for a short time. If you want to do this, you need to get in touch with whoever runs your pension scheme.

If you do reduce your contribution, you might be paying in less than the minimum required by the government’s new standards. If this is the case, the government requires your employer to increase your contributions back to the minimum every so often. If this happens and you want to reduce your contribution again you would need to make a second request.

Further information

For more information about each of the above situations, contact The Pensions Advisory Service. They are an independent, non-profit making organisation that provides free advice about pensions.

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation which provides free and unbiased money advice, including how to manage debt.

Additional links

Being enrolled into a workplace pension

Starting from October 2012, millions of workers will be enrolled into a workplace pension

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