Universities and union agree to restore USS benefits 

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Employer association Universities UK and the University and College Union have agreed to consult on restoring members benefit accrual in the Universities Superannuation Scheme to pre-April 2022 levels. Elsewhere, USS members will be given access to an identity protection service after data was hacked in March.
UUK and UCU had committed in March to increase benefits “where this can be done in a sustainable manner”. The organisations now said the £74bn pension scheme’s financial position means fully restored benefits would currently cost 21.8% on the 31 March 2023 monitoring basis and are unlikely to exceed 25.2% when priced within the 2023 valuation, and so are ready to consult members on benefit restoration. 
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “When university staff demanded their pensions back, they were scoffed at, ridiculed and told to 'move on'. But, today, they have taken another big step towards seeing their retirement benefits restored, in full. This would be an incredible victory which will see our members become history makers of the trade union movement.” 
USS produced a monitoring report to inform the decision, which shows it ran a technical provisions surplus of £7.6bn in March, up from a deficit of £14.1bn three years earlier. Its funding level has therefore improved to 112% from 83%. On a self-sufficiency basis, it has a 95% funding ratio. 
Pre-April 2022 benefits would mean an accrual rate of 1/75th, with no break in the inflation protection, and an increased salary threshold. UUK and UCU will work jointly on member communications that will accompany the consultation. 
The two parties added that they have “agreed to develop and implement a robust and transparent mechanism for managing risk which can provide more sustainable benefits and contributions for future valuations”. 
Stability is now a standing item at joint negotiating committee meetings, they noted, “and will be a key focus of the additional [Joint Negotiating Committee] meeting that we have convened to be held in June”. A stability sub-group is due to meet twice ahead of the June JNC meeting. 
Given that benefit accrual is lower between 2022 and 2024, the organisations reiterated their joint commitment from March to “explore the options and costs of augmenting benefits in recognition of the lower benefits accrued between April 2022 and April 2024, within the 2023 valuation timetable”, saying that this will be another key focus of future JNC meetings. 

USS members to be given access to identity protection service  

Earlier this month, USS told its 470,000 members that their details were exfiltrated from the Capita servers that had been hacked in March. The information accessed includes members’ title, initials and name, their date of birth, national insurance number, USS member number and their retirement date. 
The scheme said: “We very much regret that this has happened. We are committed to supporting members.” 
USS members are being contacted and given free access to Experian’s identity protection service. Identity theft can enable fraudsters to apply for loans in someone else’s name, compromising their credit record, thereby causing distress and significant amounts of paperwork for victims having to deal with defrauded companies and credit reference agencies. Victims cannot report the issue to the police unless they have themselves lost money, as identity theft is not currently a crime in the UK. 
Will the restoration of benefits end the waves of strikes seen at universities in recent years? 

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