USS Flexible Retirement Requests:  Guidance for Managers and Staff  

1.  Introduction

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) offers a provision which enables eligible members to take “flexible retirement”, subject to their employer’s consent.   This allows members to take a proportion of their pension benefits while continuing in employment at reduced hours and salary and continuing to build up pension benefits in preparation for retirement.   

2.  USS Rules

Full details are available on the USS website but the key points are summarised below:

Note:  It is possible for an employee who has already taken 2 flexes to reduce their hours further if this is done outside of the USS Flexible Retirement Scheme (i.e. without drawing any further pension benefits), provided this is agreed by the University via the appropriate arrangement (e.g. a Flexible Working Request).

3.  Dealing with requests for flexible retirement

The University believes that the additional flexibility offered by this provision can be beneficial for both the member of staff and the University, enabling both parties to adopt a managed and phased approach to retirement.

There is no obligation on any member of staff to consider flexible retirement, neither is there any obligation on the University to agree any requests.  Any applications that are submitted should be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Each case should be given full and thorough consideration and assessed carefully in the context of operational and strategic requirements.   

Members of staff who are interested in seeking flexible retirement are encouraged to discuss this with their Head of School/Manager at the earliest opportunity (for example, as part of the wider discussions during Staff Review and Development regarding future plans and career aspirations).

Pensions information

Staff interested in USS flexible retirement are encouraged to contact the Payroll and Pensions Manager to discuss their pension options and to obtain further information regarding the pension benefits they could receive in the event of a successful application.   Pension estimates can also be obtained via the Final Salary section Benefit Modeller on the USS website.

Tax implications

Dependant on the proportion of pension benefits the member of staff wishes to draw, there may be additional tax implications to consider. Any pension payment that is not considered part of a members tax-free lump sum will be subject to income tax. This will be considered alongside any salary income the member of staff may also be receiving.  

As income tax is calculated on an individual basis, we would advise speaking with HMRC and seeking independent financial advice as this is not something the University is able to advise on.

Discussion with Head of School/Manager

Members of staff who wish to take USS flexible retirement should discuss the details of their request with their Head of School/Manager in the first instance, including:

Considering Requests

Following discussions with the member of staff, the Head of School/Manager will consult with the Dean/Divisional Head and Faculty HR Manager regarding whether or not the request for flexible retirement might be accommodated.   Cases will be assessed on the basis of the University’s operational and strategic requirements.  This assessment may include consideration of the following factors:

Requests for flexible retirement may be agreed as proposed, agreed subject to the member of staff agreeing to a variation to the proposed arrangements, or refused.

Confirming Agreement

Where it is agreed that flexible retirement can be accommodated and mutual agreement has been reached regarding all proposed details, the member of staff is required to confirm the details in writing to their manager and their Faculty/Divisional HR Manager in order that all the relevant contractual changes and pension arrangements can be initiated.

This will be acknowledged by Human Resources, who will write to formally confirm the mutually agreed changes to the member of staff’s contract of employment and liaise with Payroll/Pensions to make the appropriate arrangements for this to become effective.


The USS Flexible Retirement Policy is additional to, and separate from the University’s Flexible Working Policy, which is open to all staff.  Any member of staff (at any age) may submit a request to reduce their working hours under the Flexible Working Policy, but (unlike Flexible Retirement), this will not involve an application to draw pension benefits.