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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Proposed USS Changes

Archived updates and background information are available via the links on the left.

Latest Update: 16 March 2020

Following the ballots held during September and October 2019, UCU commenced fourteen days of further strike action on Thursday 20th February 2020. UCU served statutory notice of their intention to re-ballot for industrial action in relation to the pay negotiations and USS, however on 15th March 2020 UCU announced that the re-ballots have been postponed due to Covid-19.

Update: 2 March 2020

Please find our institutional response to the first consultation on the Joint Expert Panel's report and the 2020 and future actuarial USS valuation here.

Update: 24 January 2020

Notice of statutory consultation in relation to the Universities Superannuation Scheme: Proposed change to maintain the revaluation of the salary threshold

We have recieved formal notice of a statutory consultation in relation to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). This page contains information regarding the following:

  • Details about a proposed change to USS
  • The background to this proposed change
  • Key dates for the consultation
  • How you can respond to the consultation
  • Information about accessibility and different formats
  • Frequently asked questions

The proposed change

From 1 April 2020, that the salary threshold, currently £58,589.70, will increase each year in line with Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation (subject to a cap, which means the maximum increase in any year will be 10%*) until 31 March 2025 or if earlier, until it is reviewed by the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC).

This means that, subject to consultation, the salary threshold will continue to increase in the same way it has since the USS Investment Builder was introduced in 2016. Otherwise, it would no longer rise annually from 31 March 2020:

  • It will rise in line with CPI inflation every 1 April until 31 March 2025.
  • The rise will be capped at a maximum of 10%* each year.
  • The JNC can review the salary threshold at any time before 31 March 2025, with a view to changing this arrangement.
  • In the absence of any changes to the USS rules by 1 April 2025, the revaluation of the salary threshold would cease at that point.
  • Any subsequent changes to the salary threshold, either as a result of a JNC review or from 31 March 2025, will be subject to consultation with USS members, eligible employees and their representatives.

* The ‘cap’ operates so that the rate of increase in official pensions will be applied in full, so long as it is up to 5% a year. If such increase in official pensions is more than 5% in a year, the increase to the salary threshold would also include one half of that year’s increase above 5%, up to an overall maximum of 10%.

Background

  • In 2016, the USS Retirement Income Builder and the USS Investment Builder were introduced, following a decision by the JNC:
    • The USS Retirement Income Builder is the Defined Benefit part of the scheme, where all members paying contributions build up benefits based on their salary up to the salary threshold.
    • The USS Investment Builder is the Defined Contribution part of the scheme. Members earning above the salary threshold also build savings here.
    • The salary threshold was set at £55,000.
  • Under the USS rules, the salary threshold increased each 1 April in line with CPI inflation (subject to a cap, as detailed above), until 31 March 2020 or if earlier, until the conclusion of a review by the JNC:
    • The JNC is part of the USS governance structure. It is made up of equal numbers of members from the University and College Union and Universities UK (representing USS members and employers respectively) and an independent chair.
    • The JNC has reviewed the salary threshold and recommended to the trustee that it continues to increase in line with CPI inflation (subject to a cap, as detailed above) until 31 March 2025 or if earlier, until it concludes another review.
    • The JNC’s proposal, subject to consultation, will prevent the salary threshold from remaining static at the current level of £58,589.70 from 1 April 2020.
  • As this proposal, subject to the outcome of a consultation, would result in a listed change to USS, USS employers are required by law to consult with those affected and their representatives. This includes:
    • active members of USS – all members making contributions to USS;
    • employees eligible to join USS;
    • recognised representatives of USS members and employees eligible to join USS.

Key dates

  • The consultation will run from Friday 24 January 2020 for 60 days, until 5:00pm on Monday 23 March 2020.
  • All responses must be received by 5:00pm on Monday 23 March 2020.

How you can respond to the consultation

You can respond to this consultation by:

  • emailing EmployerConsultation@uss.co.uk;
  • sending your response directly to the pensions contact at your workplace;
  • giving a verbal response to the pensions contact at your workplace; or
  • sending your response to your recognised trade union representative.

Please note: Your response to the consultation can be anonymous and does not have to include your name or USS member number, but it must include the name of the institution at which you are employed. If you work for more than one USS eligible employer, please make a note of each institution.

Accessibility and different formats

Please let your employer know if you would like a hard copy of this notice. The content of this email will be available in Welsh, braille and large print format on request. To request a format that meets your needs, please email EmployerConsultation@uss.co.uk with details of your request.

Please note: The statutory consultation will begin on Friday 24 January 2020 and not from the time you receive this information in a different format.

Frequently asked questions

1. Will I be affected?

All active members of USS who earn above the current salary threshold, or who may in future earn above the relevant salary threshold, may be affected, as implementing the proposal would increase over the period the maximum salary on which these members can build up benefits in the USS Retirement Income Builder and affect the level of contributions they save in the USS Investment Builder.

If you are a retired member or are no longer paying contributions to USS, your pension benefits would not be affected, unless you have taken flexible retirement and are still contributing to the scheme or you are working in a role which means you are eligible to re-join USS.

2. What exactly am I being consulted on?

You are being consulted on the proposal that the salary threshold continues to rise in line with CPI inflation (subject to a cap as detailed above), as per the current arrangement, from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025 or if earlier, until the conclusion of a review by the JNC. If the proposed change is not introduced by 1 April 2020, the salary threshold will cease to be revalued and will remain at the current amount of £58,589.70 from 1 April 2020.

Your response will be read and considered by the trustee (Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited).

3. When does the consultation start and end?

The consultation will start on Friday 24 January 2020 and close 60 days later, on Monday 23 March 2020 (responses must be received by 5:00pm).

4. Will this affect any pension benefits I have already built up?

No. All USS Retirement Income Builder benefits you have already built up are protected by law.

5. Why does there have to be a consultation?

Under pensions law, certain changes to occupational pension schemes are defined as ‘listed changes’. Before a ‘listed change’ can be made, the law requires employers to undertake a consultation with affected employees (active scheme members and those eligible to join the scheme) and their representatives. The JNC’s proposal would require a listed change to be made to the USS rules, so the law says that employers must consult with USS members, employees eligible to join USS and recognised employee representatives. Only after the consultation is complete can the USS rules be amended to incorporate a listed change.

More information

If you have any questions or would like more information about this consultation, please get in touch with the pensions contact at your workplace.

Update: 20 January 2020

Following the ballots held during September and October 2019, UCU commenced industrial action on Monday 28th November 2019 with eight days of strike action. UCU, UUK and USS will be holding talks during the month of January on the future of the USS pension scheme and the recommendations of the second Joint Expert Panel (JEP) report.

We will keep staff informed of any updates or developments. A copy of the all staff email sent on 15 October 2019 can be found here.

Update: 20 September 2019

A series of consultations relating to the scheme valuations has been held over the last 18 months. The USS trustee board met on 12 September 2019 and finalised the 2018 valuation in line with its proposed option 3 solution.

Contribution rates will increase as follows:

Effective date

Employer contribution rate

Member contribution rate

Total

Current rate (since 1 April 2019)

19.5%

8.8%

28.3%

1 October 2019

21.1%

9.6%

30.7%

The contribution rates implemented on 1 October 2019 will be in place for 2 years, with higher rates expected thereafter, subject to the outcome of the 2020 valuation. The animation below explains the outcome of the 2018 USS valuation further.

We fully appreciate and share the concerns of our staff regarding the impact of higher pension contributions, being committed to providing a secure, retirement income for staff. The USS remains one of the UK’s most generous large-scale pension schemes. Employers, unions, the USS Trustee and the Pensions Regulator must all now work together to ensure the longer-term sustainability, and affordability, of the scheme for all its members.

Where can I find out more?

You can use the links on the right to find out more from USS, UUK and UCU.

USS Contributions

USS Contributions

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