Changes to the USS pension scheme
Updates for staff from the President and the Provost
Joint Expert Panel: Pensions expert Joanne Segars OBE will Chair the JEP which is made up of three UCU and three USS appointed panellists. The JEP’s Terms of Reference require it to make an assessment of the 2017 valuation, review the basis of the scheme valuation, assumptions and associated tests and agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund.
Access the minutes from the JEP meetings:
- Note of Joint Expert Panel: first meeting – 31 May 2018
- Note of Joint Expert Panel: second and third meeting – 6/7 June 2018
- Note of Joint Expert Panel: fourth meeting – 22 June 2018
- Note of Joint Expert Panel: fifth meeting - 28 June 2018
USS Trustee cost sharing process: We asked the USS in May to give the JEP the time and independence needed to complete its work. Unfortunately the USS confirmed in an update to members in June that it had decided that it was legally constrained to run the cost sharing process in parallel to the JEP. In any case, we are firmly requesting that the USS give the JEP report due consideration before any substantive changes are made to contributions.
Higher contributions from employers and staff may be required by the USS from April 2019. We will continue to support the work of the JEP and hope that its report and the subsequent Joint Negotiating Committee discussions in the autumn lead to a sustainable, equitable and fair pension scheme. A prolonged period of higher contributions would require difficult choices over future priorities for pay and remuneration and would affect the affordability of the scheme for many of you.
Pay and Benefits Review: Work continues on our own Pay and Benefits Review and number of actions are already underway including a Benchmarking Working Group, led by Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Nigel Brandon. The group will review the benchmark information used to inform pay decisions and make an interim report in September. Feedback from staff raised as part of the Pay and Benefits Review process has also been taken into account during the annual Local Pay bargaining negotiations between the College and the Joint Trades Unions (JTUs).
If you are a member of Imperial staff employed in roles in the Academic & Research job family and Professional, Operational and Technical grades 4-7, it is highly likely you are a member of the USS scheme because it is the College’s automatic enrolment pension scheme for staff in these roles.
400,000 staff at over 350 institutions in the UK have a USS pension. The USS is the independent body which runs the pension. Its Trustees are legally responsible for ensuring the pension fund is financially sustainable.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is the public body, sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which sets the rules for all workplace pension schemes, including the USS, that the Trustees have to follow. TPR is required by law to reduce the risk of shortfalls in pension schemes having to be funded by the taxpayer.
Also involved are the University and College Union (UCU), the trades union which represents many university employees, and Universities UK (UUK), the membership body which represents the university and other institutional employers whose staff are in the USS scheme.
At the national level, there is a disagreement about the plan to tackle the current projected gap (“the deficit”) between the projected value of the pension fund (“its assets”) and the amount it would need to pay pensions in the future (“its liabilities”).
On Friday 23 March UUK and UCU announced a new proposal agreed under the auspices of ACAS that would put benefit reform discussions on hold while a Joint Expert Panel examines the current valuation and agrees key principles to underpin a future joint approach. The existing scheme would be maintained as a result until April 2019. In April UCU members voted to accept the proposal.
Alongside the national dispute, in March 2018 Imperial launched its own Pay and Benefits Review, which will inform future plans for staff pay and benefits in the years ahead. All staff were invited to take part in a consultation on the balance between investments in people and in facilities.