Pension Salary Exchange Information for USS

The University of Bristol operates a Pension Salary Exchange scheme (‘Salary Exchange’) for members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). It involves the opportunity to change the way in which employee pension contributions are made, which benefits both the individual and the University. Under the scheme, National Insurance Contributions reduce, resulting in a potential increase in take-home pay for individuals and cost-savings for the University, which benefit your department.

New entrants joining USS for the first time will, from 1 October 2011, join a new Career Revalued Benefits Section of the USS pension scheme. If you are rejoining USS on or after 1 October 2011 you may be eligible for the final salary section.

Final Salary Section

If you are rejoining USS on or after 1 October 2011 you will be eligible for the final salary section provided you meet the following criteria:

If you are eligible to rejoin the final salary section please refer to the document “important information for USS members” which can be found on the intranet.

Career Revalued Benefits Section

If you join USS on or after 1 October 2011 and have not been a member previously you will be eligible for the Career Revalued Benefits Section (“CRBS”).  This means that your benefits will be calculated at the end of each scheme year in which you have been a member and added to any previous benefits built up in the scheme. These benefits then receive increases each year up to retirement.  The formula used to work out the annual pension is 1/80th (or 1.25%) of salary in each scheme year.  In addition a lump sum is provided of 3 times the pension. 

If you are unsure which scheme you fall into please refer to the flowchart (PDF, 31kB).

Contents

If you have any questions which are not covered by this information, please contact Payroll and Pensions on 0117 95 46375.

All pension contribution rates quoted herein are correct as at April 2015. 

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Glossary of terms

The Salary Exchange documentation uses a number of terms whose meaning may not be immediately obvious. Some of the terms are synonymous and arise simply because it is not possible to change terms which are widely used in employment contracts. These will continue to be used for employees who are not members of USS or who opt out of Salary Exchange.

TermDefinition
Salary Exchange The University of Bristol’s salary sacrifice scheme for employees’ pension contributions. Under Salary Exchange, you give up the Appropriate Percentage of your Reference Pay and any other pensionable pay elements. Your employee pension contributions are reduced to nil, and an additional employer pension contribution equivalent to the Appropriate Percentage is made to USS pension fund by the University. This saves National Insurance Contributions both for yourself and the University, with the savings made by the University returned to your employing department.
Salary sacrifice scheme An arrangement under which you give up the right to part of your pay by agreeing to a variation to your terms and conditions of employment, and you receive a non-cash benefit. The University of Bristol has been successfully operating salary sacrifice arrangements for several years, including a Childcare Salary Sacrifice Scheme and the Bicycle Salary Sacrifice Scheme.
Basic salary

The annual salary referred to in your original letter of appointment, or latest notification of a change in your salary. It is defined either by reference to a spine-point value within a published salary scale or as a fixed annual salary that will have been notified to you individually.

Basic Salary will continue to be quoted by reference to published spine-point values (or a personal fixed annual rate of pay) notwithstanding your participation in Salary Exchange.

If you participate in Salary Exchange, your Basic Salary will appear on your payslips at its pre-Salary Exchange levels and will be known as “Reference Pay”.

If you do not participate in Salary Exchange, your Basic Salary will appear on your payslips as “Basic Pay”.
Reference pay Your pre-Salary Exchange basic salary.
Pensionable salary Your pensionable salary and all entitlements to benefits under UBPAS are unaffected by Salary Exchange because of the use of reference pay.
Other pensionable pay elements In addition to basic salary, some employees receive additional earnings components which are pensionable. Under Salary Exchange, all such pensionable pay elements will be reduced by the Appropriate Percentage.
Non-pensionable pay elements Some employees also receive non-pensionable elements within their total pay. Non-pensionable pay elements are not affected in any way by participation in Salary Exchange and will continue to appear on payslips separately.
Adjusted pay The sum of your Reference Pay and other pensionable pay elements reduced by the Appropriate Percentage, plus the full value of any non-pensionable payments you may receive (the latter are unaffected by Salary Exchange).
Take-home pay / net pay Your Adjusted Pay minus statutory PAYE and NIC deductions together with any other voluntary deductions (such as season ticket loan repayments).
Appropriate percentage

For members of the final salary section this is 7.5% and for members of the CRBS this is 6.5%. These rates are as at 1 October 2011 and may be subject to change from time to time and will be advised to members.

Abbreviations

AVCs Additional Voluntary Contributions
CSA Child Support Agency
HMRC Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
NICs National Insurance Contributions
UBPAS University of Bristol Pension and Assurance Scheme
PAYE Pay As You Earn
SMP Statutory Maternity Pay
SPP Statutory Paternity Pay
SSP Statutory Sick Pay
USS Universities Superannuation Scheme

Questions and answers

Set out below are answers to some questions you may have regarding how Salary Exchange will affect you. Explanations of the terms used can be found in the glossary of terms above.

Overview of salary exchange

1. Why does the University of Bristol operate Salary Exchange?

The scheme allows employees to improve their take-home pay by reducing their National Insurance Contributions (NICs). The University benefits from employer’s NIC savings, which benefit the employee’s department.

2. How does Salary Exchange work?

Impact of salary exchange

3. How much will my take-home pay increase by?

The increase in your take-home pay under Salary Exchange depends on your Reference Pay and the rate at which you pay NICs. The table below provides an indication of the annual NIC savings available to employees making contributions to USS.

Reference Pay (£)Annual Employee NIC Saving (£)*Annual Employee NIC Savings (£)*
  Final salary section CRBS
  Appropriate percentage (7.5% as at 1.4.15) Appropriate percentage (6.5% as at 1.4.15)
20,000 159 132
25,000 199 155
30,000 240 207
35,000 276 240
40,000 324 276
45,000 143 89
50,000 72 65
55,000 83 72
60,000 90 78

*These savings are based on NIC rates for 2015/16.

NIC savings are smaller for higher earners because the rate at which NIC is paid reduces to 2% for earnings over the NIC Upper Earnings Limit (£42,385 per annum for 2015/16).

4. Will my pensionable salary remain the same?

Yes. Your Pensionable Salary is made up of your basic salary, and, for some members other pensionable pay elements (see the Glossary of Terms). Under Salary Exchange, Pensionable Salary will continue to be calculated in the same way as if you did not participate in Salary Exchange. i.e. the sum of your basic salary and any pensionable pay elements before the Salary Exchange reduction.  It therefore will not change.

5. Will I still get the same USS pension at retirement?

Yes. Your pension at retirement is based on your years of service in USS and your Pensionable Salary.  Pensionable Salary is not affected by the introduction of Salary Exchange; therefore your pension benefits will be unchanged.

6. If I participate in Salary Exchange, will it affect future pay increases or any other payments?

No. All future pay rises will continue to be based on your Reference Pay i.e. pre-Salary Exchange basic salary. Similarly, all pay components which are currently derived from basic salary, such as overtime, will be calculated on your Reference Pay.

7. I hold a joint appointment – how does Salary Exchange affect me?

For joint appointment holders, Salary Exchange will only apply to that portion of your salary which is paid by the University.

8. What about death in service lump sum and benefits?

Death in service lump sum and benefits from USS remain unchanged as a result of Salary Exchange.

9. I pay National Insurance Contributions at the reduced married women’s rate. Will I benefit from NIC savings if I participate in Salary Exchange?

Yes. Although you pay NICs at a reduced rate, you will still benefit from NIC savings by participating in Salary Exchange.

10. I am a new member of staff. How do I join the Salary Exchange scheme?

If you are eligible to participate in Salary Exchange, you will be automatically included in the scheme. However, you do have the option to opt out of the arrangement if you do not want to participate, in which case you must complete an opt-out form (available from the Payroll and Pensions Office on 0117 954 6375) and return this with your Staff Record Form at the commencement of your employment with the University.  Unless you opt out of Salary Exchange at the commencement of your employment, we will assume that you have accepted enrolment in the scheme as part of your terms and conditions of employment.

11. I am an existing member of staff who is not currently participating in Salary Exchange. If I opt to join the Salary Exchange scheme, is this a change to my terms and conditions?

Yes.  This will constitute an amendment to your terms and conditions in accordance with the provisions of Section 4 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.  It is important that you understand the changes to your basic salary and other pensionable pay elements (if any) as detailed in this document. 

12. How will this appear on my payslip?

Your payslip will include additional information as a result of Salary Exchange.  An example of a payslip demonstrating an employee’s pay with and without Salary Exchange is included at the end of this below.

13. What happens if I ask for a reference for a mortgage or loan?

We will advise lenders of the amount of your Reference Pay, plus any other pensionable pay elements, which will be unchanged by the participation in Salary Exchange.

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Participation in Salary Exchange

14. I’m over the state retirement age and therefore don’t pay any National Insurance Contributions. Can I still participate in Salary Exchange?

Yes. If you are over the State retirement age, you can participate in Salary Exchange. Please note that, as you do not pay NICs, you will not derive any personal benefit from Salary Exchange. However, you will benefit your department as the University will pay reduced NICs on your behalf and these savings will be returned to your department. 

15. I joined the University after age 60 and pay 7.35% pension contributions. How will I be affected?

Your pension contribution will be reduced to nil and the University will increase its employer contribution to an amount equivalent to 16% plus the Appropriate Percentage. Your Reference Pay and other pensionable pay elements will be reduced by the Appropriate Percentage.

16. Can I participate in Salary Exchange while on a career break?

While you are on a career break you will not be in receipt of any earnings from the University and will not therefore benefit from Salary Exchange. When you return to work at the University you will be able to join Salary Exchange under a lifestyle event (see question 22).

17. Can I participate in Salary Exchange while working overseas?

Whilst you are working overseas and not paying UK NIC there will be no personal benefit to you by participating in Salary Exchange.  When you return to the UK to work for the University you will be able to join Salary Exchange under a lifestyle event (see question 23).

18. I already participate in a salary sacrifice scheme. Can I participate in Salary Exchange as well?

Yes. You will be able to participate in Salary Exchange providing your Adjusted Pay is not reduced below the National Minimum Wage or the Pay Protection Limit (see question 20). We will advise you if you are likely to be affected. However, if your circumstances change and you believe your Adjusted Pay may fall below these limits, please contact Payroll and Pensions on 0117 954 6375.

19. I’m on a fixed-term University contract. Can I participate in Salary Exchange?

Yes. If you are a USS member, you can participate in Salary Exchange for the duration of your contract. When you leave the University’s employment, your participation in Salary Exchange will come to an end automatically. If you transfer to another UK university, you will be able to continue your membership of USS. However, whether or not you can take advantage of the NIC savings offered by Salary Exchange will depend on whether your new employer operates a similar scheme.

Please be aware that, if you are on a contract of less than two years, it may not be advantageous to you to participate in Salary Exchange. If you do not participate in Salary Exchange and you leave USS within two years of joining, you can choose between three options:

However, if you participate in Salary Exchange, you will not make any employee pension contributions. This means that if you leave USS within two years, the value of any refund of contributions would either be greatly reduced or nil.

If you think you may leave USS within two years of joining, and where a refund of contributions would be your preferred option, participating in Salary Exchange may not be advantageous and you may wish to opt out. Please see question 26 (What happens if I leave USS?) for further details.

20. Are there any circumstances where it may not be advantageous to participate?

It will not be advantageous for you to participate in Salary Exchange if any of the following apply to you:

If either of the first two categories apply to you, you will not be enrolled in the scheme and you will be contacted separately to confirm this.

21. Do I have to do anything to participate, such as sign any forms?

No. All employees who are eligible to participate in Salary Exchange will be included automatically in the scheme from the commencement of their employment.

22. What if I do not want to participate in Salary Exchange?

If you do not want to participate in Salary Exchange, you must complete an opt-out form and return it via Human Resources (HR) Services together with your Staff Record Form at the commencement of your employment. You can obtain an opt-out form from the HR website.

If you choose to opt out of Salary Exchange, you will remain a member of USS and will pay employee pension contributions as required by the rules of the pension scheme.  The University will deduct these contributions from your salary.  The current employee contribution rate is 6.5% (CRBS) and 7.50% (Final Salary) but may in future be varied.  Please note that by opting out of Salary Exchange, you will not benefit from NIC savings and any resulting increase in take home pay.

23. What if I change my mind or my circumstances change?

By participating in Salary Exchange, you are agreeing to stay in the scheme until at least 30 June.  Each June, you will be able to opt out with effect from 1 July if you no longer wish to be part of the scheme. Details of how to do so are available on the HR website.

An exception will be made if you experience a ‘lifestyle event’. These include notification of pregnancy, going on or returning from unpaid leave, pay being materially reduced or increased etc.

In these cases, and subject to the agreement of the University, you may opt in or out of Salary Exchange at a time other than the usual 1 July date. Should you wish to do so, please complete and return the appropriate form no later than one month in advance of the effective date.

If you decide to opt out of Salary Exchange at the commencement of your employment, you will have the opportunity to review your decision in June and elect to participate in Salary Exchange with effect from 1 July of each year.

24. What happens if I cease employment with the University of Bristol?

If you leave the University’s employment, your participation in Salary Exchange will come to an end automatically. Contributions to USS will also come to an end and you will become entitled to the appropriate pension scheme benefits, as described in question 26 below (What happens if I leave USS?).

25. What happens if I am made redundant?

We will calculate any redundancy payment you are due on your Reference Pay, which will be unchanged by participation in Salary Exchange.

26. What happens if I leave USS?

If you leave USS for whatever reason, your participation in Salary Exchange will come to an end automatically. Contributions to USS will also come to an end and you will become entitled to the appropriate pension scheme benefits as set out below.

If you transfer to another employer participating in USS, you will be able to continue your membership of USS. Whether or not you can take advantage of the NIC savings offered by Salary Exchange will depend on whether your new employer operates a similar salary exchange scheme.

If you leave USS and have two or more years of pensionable service in the scheme, there will be no change to the current arrangements under Salary Exchange. As now, you will have the choice of either:

The benefits to which you are entitled will depend on your Reference Pay, any other pensionable pay elements and your pensionable service in the scheme. Pensionable service will include any added service bought by, for example, a transfer of benefits from another pension scheme.

If you leave USS and have less than two years of pensionable service in the scheme, the options open to you will depend on whether you participate in Salary Exchange.  If you do not participate in Salary Exchange, you have the choice of three options:

However, under Salary Exchange, employee contributions are nil and so, if you were to choose the third option of a refund of contributions, the value of that refund would either be nil or greatly reduced. The refund value is the employee contributions you make during your period of service less statutory deductions. If all your pensionable service is under Salary Exchange, the refund value would be nil because you would have made no employee contributions. If part of your pensionable service is under Salary Exchange, the refund value would be greatly reduced because you would have only made employee contributions for part of your pensionable service.

If you think you may leave USS within two years of joining, and where a refund of net contributions (i.e. gross contributions less statutory deductions) would be your preferred option, participating in Salary Exchange may not be advantageous to you. In this instance, you may wish to opt out.

27. What happens if I want to leave the USS within three months of joining?

If you decide to leave the pension scheme within three months of joining and all your service is under Salary Exchange, you will not be entitled to a refund of contributions as no employee contributions would have been made. If part of the three months is before Salary Exchange, you would be entitled to a refund based on your contributions for that part of your pensionable service.  However, the value is likely to be small.  Your salary will revert back to the pre-sacrificed amount as if you have never been in the Salary Exchange scheme.

In addition to the above, if you leave the USS within three months you will still be entitled to either:

Please be aware that if you opt out of the pension scheme under auto enrolment the University is required to automatically re-enrol you into a pension scheme after 3 years.  However, you will be given the option to opt back out of the pension scheme at this time

Entitlements and pay-related benefits

28. Will Salary Exchange affect maternity pay?

The University of Bristol provides Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP) which is inclusive of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Employees who have completed at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with the University at the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth and who indicate they will be returning to work after maternity leave are entitled to receive OMP.

Any OMP you are eligible to receive will be based on your Reference Pay; therefore you will be no worse off. Unless you opt out of Salary Exchange under a lifestyle event (see question 23 for details), you will continue to exchange an amount equivalent to the Appropriate Percentage of your maternity pay during any period you are in receipt of OMP. Overall your net maternity pay will not be adversely affected.

When you are in receipt of SMP only it is not possible to salary exchange from statutory pay. Therefore your SMP cannot be reduced under Salary Exchange. However, the University will pay the additional employer’s contribution equivalent to the Appropriate Percentage on your SMP.

29. Will Salary Exchange affect sick pay?

The University of Bristol provides sick pay over and above Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). University sick pay will still be calculated with reference to your Reference Pay and will therefore not be affected by participation in Salary Exchange. Unless you opt out of Salary Exchange under a lifestyle event (see question 23 for details), you will continue to exchange an amount equivalent to your current pension contributions during any period you are in receipt of university sick pay.

If you are in receipt of SSP only, it is not possible to salary exchange from statutory pay and therefore your SSP cannot be reduced under Salary Exchange. The University will pay the additional employer’s contribution equivalent to the Appropriate Percentage on your SSP.

30. Will Salary Exchange impact my Tax Credits?

No.  If you are in receipt of Tax Credits the Tax Credit calculation is based on your taxable income after making pension contributions.  The calculation of this figure will remain the same if you participate in the Salary Exchange so this will not impact on your eligibility for Tax Credits.

Please be aware that the Government is currently reviewing the Tax Credit system with a view to introducing the Universal Tax Credit system from October 2013.The specific details of this reform are yet to be announced.

31. What about state benefits?

The USS is currently contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (currently the State Second Pension, previously known as SERPS). This means that you currently earn a reduced state earnings related pension and USS provides this benefit instead. Therefore, Salary Exchange has no negative impact on your State Second Pension.

Most other State benefits will not be affected by participation in Salary Exchange, unless participation in the arrangement means that your Adjusted Pay is brought below the NIC Lower Earnings Limit (£5,824 per annum for 2015/16). In this situation, benefits that may be affected include basic state pension, job seeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit, bereavement payment and allowance and widowed parent’s allowance.

In order to protect employees, we have set a Pay Protection Limit of £6,500. If we believe that your Adjusted Pay is likely to fall below this limit, we will assume that you do not wish to participate in Salary Exchange. In this case, you will not be enrolled in the scheme and you will be contacted separately to confirm this

32. Will Salary Exchange have any impact on my payments to the Child Support Agency (CSA)?

Child maintenance payments to the CSA are calculated with reference to your net income, i.e. your pay after the deduction of pension contributions, tax and NIC. Under Salary Exchange, your net income increases because you are paying less NIC. There will, however, be no increase to your child maintenance payments as the CSA will not typically change the amount of child maintenance if the change in net weekly income is less than 5%. Salary Exchange net pay changes will be less than 5%.

Contact details for the CSA and further details can be obtained from the CSA website.

33. Will my student loan repayments be affected?

If you are repaying a student loan taken out with the Student Loans Company, your student loan repayments may be reduced slightly and the repayment period may increase as a result of participating in Salary Exchange. This is because your repayments are calculated using your Adjusted Pay (after the Salary Exchange reduction

34. What is the impact of Salary Exchange on a dependant’s pension?

Salary Exchange has no impact on a dependant’s pension.

35. What happens if the USS contribution rates change?

The Appropriate Percentage is based on the USS rates and may be amended in line with USS rates.  You will be informed if any changes to the Appropriate Percentage are necessary.

36. What happens if the University withdraws the scheme?

The Pension Salary Exchange scheme is based on current taxation and National Insurance law and practice. If these change, or if there is no longer a benefit in participating in this arrangement, the University reserves the right to withdraw Pension Salary Exchange. This means that the Salary Exchange of the Appropriate Percentage of your basic salary and other pensionable pay elements will no longer apply and you will be entitled to receive your pre Salary Exchange basic salary. In addition you will revert to making personal employee contributions to USS. You would be no worse off than if you had continued to make contributions directly from your salary into the USS. In the meantime you will have benefited from increased take home pay.

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Further Information

37. Where can I find further information?

Further information about Salary Exchange is available on the HR website. The website contains an overview of the scheme, an online calculator to help you work out your potential increase in take-home pay through Salary Exchange, and an opt-out form should you choose not to participate.

If you have any questions which are not covered by the information contained in this booklet or the website, please contact Payroll and Pensions on 0117 95 46375.

Please be aware that the University can provide information about the scheme but not financial advice.

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Payslip illustrations

The following examples show an employee’s payslip without Salary Exchange (example A) and with Salary Exchange (example B).

The illustrations are for a USS member in the final salary section with a basic salary of £40,000 per annum.

The employee makes personal pension contributions at 7.50% on pensionable elements, while the University makes contributions at 16% on pensionable elements.

The examples show the situation in month 1 of the tax year (April 2015). The employee is taxed with standard basic personal allowance; the starting rate band of 20%; the higher rate band of 40%. The employee’s National Insurance Contributions are at the contracted-out rate. All calculations are based on 2015/16 tax and NIC rates.

Points to note when comparing the two payslips:

Example A: Payslip without Salary Exchange

Pay and AllowanceDeductionsTotals to Date

Basic            3,333.33

 

 

 

 

Total Pay      3,333.33

USS    250.00

Tax   440.00

N. Ins.   279.50

 

(PENS ER's     533.33)

Total      969.50

 

Income Tax     440.00

Nat. Ins     278.50

Taxable Gross  3083.33

USS      250.00

 

NET    2363.83

Example B: Payslip with Salary Exchange

Pay and AllowanceDeductionsTotals to Date

Basic                            3,333.33

Sal Exch                        (250.00)

 

 

 

Total Pay                    3083.33

Tax    440.00

N.Ins    253.00

 

(PENS ER's     250.00)

(PENS ER's     533.33)

Total       693.00

 

Income Tax     440.00

Nat. Ins     253.00

Taxable Gross  3083.33

 

 

NET    2390.33

Based on 2014/15 tax and NIC rates.