Some older academics in the TPS will now be able to work and claim a pension, says Chloe Stothart
A key reform of one of the higher education sector's main pension schemes could help prevent an early retirement time bomb and keep older academics working for longer.
The Teachers' Pension Scheme, for academic and related staff in post-92 universities and colleges, now allows workers to reduce their hours or take a lower paid role later in their careers while claiming part of their pension under changes introduced at the start of the year.
The move, which is likely to ensure that more people work longer, is also being considered by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, covering staff in pre-92 universities. This could mean a potential revolution in the career options for all academics.
Geraldine Egan, national pensions official at the University and College Union, said: "I think we will see more people working longer because they don't have to take their pension all in one go but can work a bit and stay in a familiar area."
She said that the change had been popular with staff and would not be costly, as members were more likely to opt to go part time and continue to contribute to their pension.
The reform could encourage staff to stay in the sector and so defuse the demographic time bomb as the population ages, she said.
Staff would be able to claim up to three quarters of their pension if they reduced their hours after the age of 55. They would pay pro rata pension contributions while working part time and would then claim the remainder of their pension after retiring. The figure would be based on the remainder of their pension, plus contributions they had made while working part time.
Previously, staff were able to claim their pension in full only and it would be reduced if they claimed it early.
The UCU and Universities UK are negotiating a package that will be put to the USS to be costed.
Tim Martin, a senior lecturer in the Law School at Nottingham Trent University, said that not many staff had heard about the change, but those who had found out about it had been very interested.
He said it could mean that staff would lose less in pay if they opted to go part time later in their careers. "I would think it is bound to encourage people to stay in the sector. It is a valuable option to consider," he said.