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British government looks at pension rules to retain health workers

The British union flag flutters on the Victoria Tower at the Houses of Parliamen, in London, Britain Dec. 30, 2020. — REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE

LONDON — Britain’s government is launching a consultation into how to amend pension rules for workers in the National Health Service (NHS) to help retain more staff, at a time when the sector faces strikes over pay this month that could halt some procedures.

The governing Conservative Party has long promised to sort out a health service which has struggled to recover after being stretched to its limits during the COVID-19 pandemic and now faces strikes by thousands of nurses and ambulance workers.

“The generous NHS Pension Scheme is one of the best in the country, but it’s not working as it should for everyone,” health minister Steve Barclay said in a statement.

“We need a system where our most experienced clinicians don’t feel they have to reduce their workload or take early retirement because of financial worries. I also want to make it easier for staff that want to return to work to support the NHS to be able to do so without penalties.”

To provide more flexibility, the proposals will include allowing retired and partially retired staff to return to work or increase their working hours without having payments to their pension reduced or suspended. That would allow staff to claim a portion or all of their pension benefits but continue working and contributing to their pension.

The proposals are also aimed at fixing the unintended impacts of inflation, so senior clinicians are not taxed more than is necessary, the health ministry said in its statement.

The consultation will be open for eight weeks, with the reforms expected to be implemented in 2023.

On Sunday, Conservative chairman Nadhim Zahawi said the government was looking to bring in the military to help maintain services if strikes by NHS staff go ahead, urging health workers to reconsider their plans for industrial action. — Reuters

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