Retirement for university support staff

Since 1 October 2011, there has been no normal or fixed age at which support staff have to retire.  The University may not request support staff to take retirement at a particular age nor suggest that they consider doing so.  It is for individual members of staff to decide when they wish to retire.

To retire, a member of staff must write to their department, providing the appropriate period of notice (as specified in their contract) of their intention to retire.

Support staff may elect to retire at, or at any time after, the minimum pension age stipulated in the Rules of the pension scheme to which they belong.

Support staff who are thinking of applying for re-grading or promotion into an academic-related grade need to give careful consideration to the effect this might have on their eligibility for retirement and pension.

Retirement options

Support staff belong to a number of pension schemes and specific advice needs to be taken on how each scheme’s rules apply in any given situation (contact Pensions Office).  But, to illustrate, the current possibilities under OSPS, the principal pension scheme for support staff, are:

Normal retirement  

All eligible OSPS members are entitled, if they choose, to take their pension benefits and retire from the University from their scheme retirement date  (see Pensions for details).  But if they do not wish to do so, they can continue to work beyond that date and take their benefits from OSPS later. 

Early retirement 

Members of staff may apply to retire before their scheme retirement date. This is commonly known as early retirement. Early retirement usually entails receiving smaller pension benefits.

Flexible retirement  

The University offers support staff a flexible retirement option. This is where a member of staff continues to work, but takes a reduction in salary, for example by working reduced hours, in exchange for payment of a portion of their pension benefits. This mix of work and drawing pension benefits can offer an attractive way of tapering towards eventual full retirement.  See flexible retirement for further information.

Ill-health retirement

If a member of staff's health deteriorates so that they are permanently unable to do their job, and they are a member of a relevant pension scheme, they may apply for an ill-health early retirement.  If they are eligible, and this is agreed, their pension benefits may be paid early.  Ill-health early retirement benefits may include a lump sum payment and, for eligible scheme members, a pension. Contact the Pensions team to find out what ill-health early retirement benefits are available under the various sections of OSPS.  For advice on managing ill-health departments should contact their HR Business Partner.

Retirement information

Since the default retirement age was only abolished in 2011 members of staff, who through their working lives may not have thought they would need to reach their own decision about retirement, may need information and support.  Given the importance of the retirement decision, departments and divisions should ensure staff have access to relevant information and encourage anyone considering retirement to consult before reaching their decision.  Available support includes:

Letter

Departments and, where appropriate, divisions should write to individual employees at a time when they might reasonably be expected to be starting to consider their retirement options i.e. at around their 55th birthday and then every five years thereafter.  The purpose of the letter would be to remind staff of their options, to update them on sources of information and support currently available and to encourage them to consult.  A pro-forma letter may be downloaded from Documents.

Retirement Seminar: Stepping forward with confidence into retirement

The Oxford Learning Institute runs a full-day seminar "Stepping forward with confidence into retirement". See the Oxford Learning Institute website for further details.

Pensions information

Anyone considering retirement would be well advised to get an individual pension benefit estimate: the size of each person’s pension benefits depends on a number of specific factors and it is therefore important for individuals to get advice based on their own personal circumstances. The Pensions Office are available to provide pensions estimates and other pension information.  But they cannot give financial advice.  For this members of staff will have to consult an independent financial adviser.

Meetings with managers

Anyone considering their retirement options is encouraged to discuss these with their administrator or manager.  Such discussions should give the employee important information about how the department sees work evolving over the coming years, how the employee might be affected by any changes, and how the department might respond to a request for flexible retirement or for a change in role.

Discussion of retirement

Managers should not shy away from initiating a discussion about an older employee’s future plans. Care needs to be taken, however, to avoid direct questions that give the impression of suggesting that the employee should be thinking of retiring. There are no problems with discussing retirement if the subject is first raised by the employee. Best practice is to start discussion by asking general questions about how the employee sees their future plans and development and to ensure that such discussions form part of a wider pattern of meetings with other staff, such as occur within a PDR process.

 

Performance

Care must be taken to avoid making any assumptions about capability or performance changing with age. High performing older employees should have the same access to any career opportunities and merit pay schemes as others.  Equally unsatisfactory performance must be addressed as and when it arises. Best practice is to review performance regularly, but again such reviews cannot be targeted only at older employees.  They need to be part of a general review process for all staff. 

In the absence of a retirement age, the grounds for dismissal are: conduct, capability, redundancy or for some other substantial reason.