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This information was sent to USS members and eligible members at Cambridge on 26 January 2022 via the USS bulletin.

USS employers have a statutory duty to consult scheme members about any proposed changes to benefits or contributions in the scheme. The University recently held a consultation – from 1 November 2021 to 17 January 2022 – on the JNC package of proposals that was agreed in August 2021. The consultation was open to all current members of the scheme, as well as those staff who are eligible to be members but are not currently paying into the scheme. 

Consultation results
The consultation asked for views on the key changes being proposed. These are:

  • Reducing the threshold between the DB and DC sections of the scheme from £59,883.65 to £40,000
  • Reducing the DB accrual rate from 1/75th of salary to 1/85th, and lump sum accrual from 3/75ths to 3/85ths
  • Capping inflation-linked increases to benefits at 2.5% in any given year
  • No change to contributions beyond the slight increase from 9.6% to 9.8% (members) and 21.1% to 21.4% (employers) that was implemented in October 2021.

Please note that, if implemented, these changes would come into force from 1 April 2022 and would apply to future accrual only. All benefits built up in the scheme before that date are protected by law and the conditions attached to those benefits at the time of their accrual will still apply – so for example, any benefits accrued before 1 April 2022 are inflation-capped at the old rate (fully protected up to 5% and half-protected between 5% and 10%).

In all 194 active members provided feedback at Cambridge. It was clear from these responses that members find these changes unwelcome, and have a negative view of the recent valuation process and the way USS is being managed. 

When asked about the specific changes to benefits in the JNC proposal, a strong majority of respondents criticised each of them. The inflation cap was a source of particular concern, with nearly 90% of answers indicating that a cap of 2.5% is too low. A number of members used their responses to ask for alternative solutions to the problems facing USS, such as exploring risk- and reward-sharing or conducting a new valuation.

What happens next?
The University will now report these findings to USS, which will consider them along with the consultation feedback from other university employers. 

The USS trustee and the Joint Negotiating Committee (composed of representatives of UUK and UCU) will consider the feedback and may choose to alter the changes being proposed. If this happens, there will be a short consultation with university employers. The final package of proposals must be signed off by 28 February to be implemented by 1 April: this is necessary to avoid fallback contribution increases.

Other work on USS
A working group formed of representatives from UUK and UCU, supported by the USS trustee, has been set up by the JNC to explore the introduction of low-cost options for members and is hoping to report to the JNC and the USS Trustee in April 2022.
UUK has invited UCU and the USS Trustee to participate in a working group to explore whether conditional benefit designs could make the scheme more sustainable in the long term and provide better value. It is our understanding that UCU are not currently able to participate in these discussions. UUK and the USS Trustee will jointly carry out exploratory work on feasible options in the meantime.
UUK has also been considering possible approaches to a governance review of USS. This work is still at an early stage but is expected to take in employer responses to previous consultations as well as the report of the Joint Expert Panel.