As detailed in About the FPS 2006 for special members, the original legal settlement under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 only allowed certain retained firefighters with service between 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006 to become members of the pension scheme. Eligible firefighters were asked whether they wanted to join this scheme in an options exercise which took place in 2014-2015. Elections to join had to be received by 30 September 2015. This was the ‘first options exercise’.
More recently, this judgment was challenged at the European Court of Justice in relation to fee-paid judges. The Court ruled in that case that service going back to the start of employment could be taken into account. The government accepted that the same principles apply to certain retained firefighters, whether they have made a legal claim or not.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was agreed by the government, representative bodies, and Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) on 9 March 2022.
What does this mean?
A second options exercise will take place to allow eligible retained firefighters to buy pension service as a special member of the FPS 2006, backdated to the start date of their employment.
How do I know if I'm eligible?
The diagram below sets out the dates you must have been employed as a retained firefighter to be eligible for the second options exercise.
Membership will be open to all such eligible individuals, this includes:
- current firefighters
- Fireifghters who have left the service
- Firefighters who have left the service and are in recipt of a pension, and;
Firefighters who have left the service and are in receipt of ill health retirement benefits
If you are eligible, you do no not need to have made a legal claim to be offered backdated access to the FPS 2006.
Please see the examples below:
Q: I left employment as a retained firefighter between 7 April 2000 and 30 June 2000. I was not given an option to join under the first options exercise – will I be eligible this time?
A: Yes, you meet the condition set out in point one above. The earliest in scope date is 7 April 2000. If your employment in the same role is continuous and started before 7 April 2000, you will be given an opportunity to buy service to your original start date.
Q: I was eligible for the first options exercise as I had retained service within the period 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006, however, my retained service started before 1 July 2000 – will I be eligible for the second options exercise?
A: Yes, you meet the condition set out in point two above. The earliest in scope date is 7 April 2000. If your employment in the same role is continuous and started before 7 April 2000, you will be given an opportunity to buy service to your original start date.
Q: I was eligible for the first options exercise as I had retained service within the period 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006 only - will I be eligible this time?
A: If your FRA sent you a statement of service in the first options exercise you had an opportunity to join previously. This means that you may not be in scope for the second options exercise.
If your FRA only sent you an initial letter asking you to express your interest and did not provide you with a statement of service, you may be in scope this time.
What will I be entitled to?
Eligible retained firefighters will be able to buy pension service as a special member for some or all their employment between 7 April 2000 and 5 April 2006, as well as any continuous employment up to 7 April 2000 and/ or any continuous employment from 5 April 2006.
A retained firefighter transferring from one FRA to another without a break in service will be treated as having continuous employment with the second FRA.
When will I be contacted about my options?
The government is drafting the scheme rules which are needed to bring in the second options exercise in England. These rules will be subject to consultation before they are laid before Parliament.
The government has a maximum period of 18 months to draft, consult, and introduce the scheme rules which are needed to bring the changes into law. This is expected to happen by 1 October 2023.
Once the changes become law, FRAs will be expected to start the second options exercise and contact eligible members as soon as possible. The exercise will run for a maximum period of 18 months (October 2023 to March 2025) after it begins. Your FRA will contact you at some point during this period and set out the options available to you.
Do I need to do anything now?
If you think you are eligible for the second options exercise, you should complete the Special Members second options exercise - Information for FRAs document and return it to your FRA by post or email, as soon as possible. This will help your FRA/ former FRA identify who is eligible.
Please note it is likely that receipt of forms will not be acknowledged.
Please make sure that the form is returned to your FRA or former FRA and not your pension scheme administrator. Forms sent to your pension scheme administrator will not be actioned and your FRA may not then have your details to contact you when the options exercise starts.
If you are no longer employed, please make sure that your contact details remain up to date with your former FRA so that they can contact you between October 2023 and March 2025.