Flexible retirement

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

USS has introduced flexible retirement, which provide an opportunity for members of USS to take their pension benefits in “tranches”.

Subject to the agreement of the University, the employee may take between 20% and 80% of their benefits and remain in pensionable employment with the University provided they reduce both their pay and their hours of work by at least 20%. USS are calling this a “flex”.

The USS rules allow the employee to operate a second “flex” – ie provided they reduce their pay and hours by at least 20% again and subject to the agreement of their employer, they can take a further tranche of benefits. Only two flexes are permitted – on the third occasion, the employee must give up their employment in full and draw their benefits in full.

If applicable, early retirement reductions will be applied to any benefits that are taken early (as defined by the rules of the scheme).

The employee will be able to continue to contribute to the scheme, accruing further pensionable service on their reduced hours.

Procedure for flexible retirement under USS


(1) This scheme provides employees of the University of Exeter who are active members [see note 1] of USS to request flexible retirement. Flexible retirement means the employee begins drawing their pension benefits (subject to the rules of the relevant pension scheme) while remaining in employment on reduced hours.

(2) There is no right to flexible retirement. The University will assess each case against its operational requirements. The University reserves the right to refuse requests which are not in its managerial interest or where the management of the University is concerned that approving the request would undermine its operational requirements.

(3) Members of staff are encouraged to openly discuss their long-term plans and aspirations, including retirement, with their manager, particularly in Performance and Development Review (PDR) meetings. It is recognised that such discussions will not be interpreted as a commitment to retire on a particular date (until a request or resignation is made in writing), but they will assist managers in planning for the College or Service meeting its future business needs and objectives.

(4) This scheme is not contractual. The University reserves the right to vary or withdraw the scheme following consultation with trade union representatives.


(5) You must be an active member of USS and at least age 55 on the date you want your flexible retirement to begin.


(6) Before submitting a written request, you are encouraged to discuss your suggested new working arrangements with your line manager (ie your PDR reviewer) or HR Business Partner/Manager or Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations or Director of Professional Service (as appropriate).

(7) Before submitting a written request, you should also discuss your pension options with the Pay and Benefits Manager in Human Resources and get an estimate of your benefits should your request be accepted [see note 2].

For further information on flexible retirement for members of USS, see the USS Factsheet on flexible retirement on the USS website.

(8) You must submit a request in writing – using form PD64 Application for Flexible Retirement - to your Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations/Director of Professional Service (cc to HR Business Partner/Manager) stating:

  • your current working hours and days.
  • the working hours and days you would like to reduce to. (This must be at least 20% less than your present working hours. The new working hours must not normally reduce your working hours below 40% of the current level.)
  • your suggestions for which duties you would continue to do, which you would no longer do and your suggestions for how the College/Service may mitigate the impact of the reduction.
  • the date you would like the reduction to take effect (the University will normally expect the contractual notice period to apply).
  • what proportion of your USS benefits you would like to draw. (This information is for pension administration purposes only. For USS members, the University will not comment on the proportion of benefits which you wish to withdraw. Members of ERSS must draw their benefits in full.)
  • for members of ERSS: whether you wish to accrue benefits in your part-time employment by starting a new period of pensionable service and continuing contributions from your salary. (For members of USS, the rules of the scheme require you to continue contributing to the scheme.)

(9) The Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations/Director of Professional Service (or designate) will arrange a meeting with you (which the HR Business Partner/Manager will also attend). The meeting will normally take place within 2 weeks [see note 4] of receiving the request but in Colleges, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations may notify you (in writing) that consideration of your submission has been deferred so that it can be taken into account as part of the academic and business planning process.

(10) The purpose of the meeting will be to explore whether and how your request to reduce your working hours can be accommodated. Possible outcomes of the meeting may be:

  • that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations/Director of Professional Service advises you that they will be able to recommend approval of your request; or 
  • that approval of their request will be subject to you agreeing a variation to your request (which may be a variation in your new working hours and/or the date the reduction takes effect and/or or the duties you will undertake after the reduction takes effect).

(11) Where a variation to the request is proposed, you may give your agreement to this in the meeting or you may request up to one week to consider the proposed variation.

(12) The outcome of the meeting will be confirmed in writing to you.

(13) At the earliest opportunity after the outcome of the meeting has been confirmed in writing to the employee (and allowing time for you to consider a proposal by the College or Service to vary their proposal), the Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Director of College Operations/Director of Professional Service will make a recommendation to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (for staff in Colleges) or to the Registrar and Secretary (for staff in Professional Services).

(14) If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, you have the right to appeal against the decision within 14 days of receipt of the letter by writing to the Director of People Services and Global Partnerships, setting out the grounds for your appeal. Within 14 days after receiving notification that you wish to appeal, an appeal meeting will be arranged with a Deputy Vice Chancellor, the Registrar and Secretary or nominee. At the meeting, you may be accompanied by a work colleague or union representative. You will be informed of the outcome of the appeal in writing within 14 days after the date of the appeal meeting. The appeal decision is final.

(15) For members of USS: where the request is approved by the University, this will be conditional upon the formal quotation issued by USS being acceptable to the employee [see note 5]. The approval will be passed to the Pay and Benefits Manager to request a formal quotation from USS. After the University has received the formal quotation from USS, the Pay and Benefits Manager will send this to the employee with a requirement that they respond within 4 weeks or the University’s approval will be withdrawn [see note 6].

(16) Any application for flexible retirement approved by the University is also subject to the rules of USS (as appropriate) which may vary from time to time.

(17) Any change to working hours agreed through this Procedure is permanent. The pension schemes' rules do not permit you to change back to your previous working hours. This will not prevent the College/Service or you proposing changing the days on which you work or the duties you undertake.


[1] An active member is an employee who is contributing to the scheme and accruing pensionable benefits.

[2] Members of USS can get an estimate from the calculator on the USS website before submitting your application to the University – see http://www.uss.co.uk/news/Pages/Flexibleretirementestimates.aspx - or contact the Pay and Benefits Manager. Members of ERSS should contact the Pay and Benefits Manager.

[3] Time limits (other than those for submitting an appeal and for prior notification of meetings) are indicative – there may be circumstances, particularly for more complex cases, where these are not realistic. If it is not possible to respond or take action within the time limits referred to in this Procedure, you will be given an explanation for the delay and told when a response can be expected. The time limits may be varied by mutual agreement in individual cases.

[4] USS will only issue full quotations after the University has given agreement to a formal request from the employee.

[5] USS require a minimum of two months’ notification of flexible retirement.

[6] You should get an estimate of your benefits from the Pay and Benefits Manager, Alison Rose, before submitting your application to the University.