My circumstances have changed

A summary of how life changes may also affect your pension and plans for the future.

When life changes

Life is rarely straightforward, so it’s important to understand how a change in circumstances may affect your pension.

A change to your circumstances could be

  • Taking family leave
  • Taking a career break
  • Suffering from ill-health
  • Getting divorced or the dissolution of a civil partnership
  • Changing your working hours
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We’ve included a summary of how these circumstances may affect your pension below.

Please check your Member Guide to find out more. You can find the Guide by logging in to your myRPS account and going to ‘My Library’.

It’s important to update your membership details regularly if things change, for example, if you move house, so you can be kept up to date with your pension. You can check and change your details in your myRPS account

If you’re absent from work for any reason, you’ll need to check about continuing pension contributions with your employer.

If you’re on family leave, for example following the arrival of a child, then you may get one of these types of pay:

  • Maternity pay
  • Paternity pay
  • Family pay
  • Adoption leave pay

If you are getting one of those types of pay, then what you pay into your pension will be based on that and not on your normal wages. Your employer will continue to pay into your pension based on your normal pay. Your pension benefits will not be affected and will continue to be based on your normal rate of pay.

If you get no pay during family leave then your payments into your pension will be paused. Your employer may choose to continue to pay these on your behalf, however you would need to pay your employer back once you return to work. You would then also restart paying your normal contributions. Please speak to your employer for more details.

You can find more information in the Read as You Need guide to family leave.

If you are planning on taking a career break from work, you will need to speak to your employer to check what arrangements they have in place and what the impact will be your pension contributions and benefits.

When the break starts all payments into your pension will stop, unless your employer makes alternative arrangements. You will also stop building up membership in the Scheme until you return. Once you return to work your contributions and membership will restart automatically. Your employer may also give you the opportunity to buy additional membership to cover the length of your career break.

If you do not return to work, you will be treated as having left the Scheme when the career break started.

You should speak to your employer for more information, including details about what death benefits may be payable if you die during your career break.

If you need to take long term sick leave, please speak to your employer about how this will affect your pension and whether your contributions can be paused.  

If you need to stop work completely due to ill-health, you may be able to start taking your RPS pension and cash lump sum straight away, even if you haven’t reached Normal Retirement Age (NRA). We call this an incapacity pension.

You won’t be given an incapacity pension automatically if you stop work due to ill-health. You must meet the criteria outlined in the Scheme rules to qualify. This includes:  

  • having at least 5 years membership in the Scheme - this applies to most Sections of the RPS. Please check your Member Guide to find out more. You can find this by logging into your myRPS account and going to ‘My Library’.
  • you are under your Normal Retirement Age (NRA),
  • you apply within a year of leaving work (although the Trustee may consider your application after this time); and;
  • medical experts chosen by your employer and the Trustee provide evidence that you’re unable to work in your current or other suitable job.

As long as you meet this criteria, your benefits will not be reduced for their early payment. You may also be awarded additional membership on the calculation of your pension.

If you’re under Normal Retirement Age and you return to work while claiming ill-health benefits, your pension may be reduced or suspended. When you reach NRA, your pension (including any enhancement) will be reinstated even if you carry on working.  

If you suffer from a serious illness and your life expectancy is less than 12 months, you may be able to take all your pension as a lump sum. You can do this if:


  • you have left active membership of the Scheme; and
  • you have not claimed any benefits from this or any other Section of the Scheme.


You can find out more about taking your pension early due to ill-health in the Read as You Need guide for members applying for incapacity benefits. This guide also applies to members of the Network Rail Section.


If you’re going through a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership, your pension is likely to be considered along with your other assets when financial settlements are worked out.

A court order can be made to transfer part of the value of your pension benefits during the divorce or dissolution proceedings. If this is the case, it would mean your Scheme benefits will reduce to provide benefits for your ex-spouse or ex-civil partner.

For more information about divorce and your pension please go to the Divorce and my pension page and check the Read as you Need guide for members.

A change to your working hours

If your working hours change it’s likely your wages will too. That means how much you pay into your pension may also change. The amount that you pay into your pension is worked out using your full-time rate of Section Pay for your job but is reduced for the hours you work.  

If you go part-time then you will still be entitled to the same range of benefits as your full-time colleagues. However, the amount you pay in and the amount you receive will be based on the part-time hours you work. You can find out more in the Read as you Need guide to part-time work.

If you’re leaving work entirely, your active membership of the Scheme will end automatically. You can find more information on the leaving the scheme and opting-out page.

If you’re part of a redundancy or voluntary severance exercise, you can find more details on what that means for your pension on the severance and redundancy page.

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