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Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

Membership of USS has been available to eligible employees at the University of Reading since 1975 and currently there are in excess of 2,200 members here at Reading. Membership is offered by the University of Reading to employees in Pay Grades 6 and above or equivalent. The scheme is operated under a Trust and the assets are kept entirely separate from those of the University. USS is administered from the scheme’s offices in Liverpool.

USS is a hybrid scheme with benefits that can be built up on both a defined benefit and a defined contribution basis. 

All members will automatically contribute into the defined benefit part of USS known as the Retirement Income Builder. The current contribution rate is set at 6.1% for employees and 14.5% for the University as the employer. In the Retirement Income Builder, you will earn a guaranteed pension of 1/85th of your pay plus a one-off tax-free cash lump sum of 3 x pension up to a salary threshold (which is currently set at £41,004). The guaranteed pension is payable for life.

If you pay any contributions over the salary threshold, transfer in any benefits to the scheme, or make any additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) to USS, these benefits will go into the defined contribution part known as the Investment Builder.More information regarding the Investment Builder can be found in the current member's booklet and there is also a guide to investing in the Investment Builder. These documents can both be downloaded from the Things To Do Now section.  

In addition to the above, membership of USS also provides the following benefits:

  • tax relief on the contributions you pay into the scheme

  • a tax free lump sum if you die whilst an active member

  • a pension for your spouse or civil partner or dependant if you die whilst being an active, deferred or retired member

  • pensions for eligible children if you die whilst being an active, deferred or retired member

  • an early payment of retirement benefits if you have needed to retire due to incapacity

Full details of all aspects of USS can be found on the scheme's website along with lots of helpful factsheets, information and benefit modellers. Forms for nominating beneficiaries in the event of your death or for transferring other benefits into USS can also be found on USS's 'Useful Forms' webpage.

USS runs some helpful and interesting member webinars. Please see upcoming webinars below. You can register for the webinars on the USS website


A salary exchange scheme was introduced by the University in 2012 as this is a more efficient way of paying into the scheme. Further information can be found on the Pensions+ page.

Joining the scheme

If you are eligible for membership of USS, you will likely be enrolled into Scheme membership automatically from your first day of employment. However, for some posts, employees will only be enrolled if they meet the Government's auto-enrolment criteria. Full details of how you will be enrolled can be found in your contract of employment and your offer letter. Further information on auto-enrolment can also be found on our auto-enrolment webpage. 

  If you are Pay Grade 6 and above and want to join or re-join USS, you will need to contact the Pensions Office. You are able to make the request to join in one of the following ways:

  • Download and complete the ‘Join/opt into a pension scheme’ form which can be found in the Things To Do Now section below’ and send it to the Pensions Office email address

  • Email the Pensions Office using your University email account quoting the following phrase: "I confirm I personally submitted this notice to join a workplace pension scheme"

  • Send a letter, which has been signed by you, using the phrase "I confirm I personally submitted this notice to join a workplace pension scheme"

The email address for the Pensions Office is:

The internal postal address is Pensions Office, Whiteknights House or if sending through the external mail: Pensions Office, The University of Reading, PO Box 217, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AH.

Once you have been enrolled into the scheme, you will then receive confirmation and further information directly from USS.

Additional Voluntary Contributions

To sign up for AVC payments (or to change or stop existing additional contributions) you will need to log on and arrange this through My USS. Please note that any changes you request via My USS will be implemented in your pay the month after you have submitted the request. So, for example, if you submit the request in May, it will take effect in your June pay. Please note that AVCs cannot be taken under the Pensions+ arrangement (expect for 'the Match') but they will still benefit from tax-relief. More information regarding AVC payments (including 'the Match') can be found in the current member's booklet which can be downloaded from the Things To Do Now section.  

Retiring From The Scheme

Retirement from the scheme is not automatic. If you are considering retiring from the scheme, we would recommend contacting the University’s Pensions Office 6 months prior to your proposed retirement date to ensure that you have enough time to: request and receive a quotation; hand in your notice; have your leaver paperwork completed by your department and sent to the Payroll Team; complete any necessary USS paperwork; and seek any financial advice if needed.

USS require your completed retirement forms and to be notified of your date of retirement at least 8 weeks prior to this date in order to avoid any delays in settling your benefits. The University’s Pensions Office are only able to notify USS of your retirement date and request the necessary retirement forms once the leaver form has been received from your department. Therefore, if you wish to retire, please ensure that the leaver form is sent to the Payroll Team at least 12 weeks prior to your proposed retirement date to ensure that there is enough time to receive and submit your USS retirement paperwork. Once USS has received your completed retirement forms, they will contact you directly to confirm this. After USS have confirmed they have received your documentation, the next time you will hear from USS will be near your retirement date (or after if the forms were not submitted on time) to confirm the benefits payable. 

If you require any further information regarding fully retiring from USS, please see USS's ‘A timeline To Retirement’ summary on their website or contact the Pensions Office for further details. If you are seeking to flexibly retire from the scheme, please visit the University's Flexible Retirement webpage for further information.

Leaving the University

If you leave the University, the Pensions Office will inform USS as part of the monthly payroll process. USS will then write to you at your home address and provide you with a leaver statement which will detail your pension benefits and your options. Please always check that your address is up-to-date on Employee Self Service to ensure your leaver statement will reach you. Further information can be found on USS's 'Leaving or already left' webpage.

Opting Out or Withdrawing From The Scheme

USS provides an excellent range of benefits and you should consider what you would be missing out on before you withdraw, including a significant contribution from the University and pension increases when you receive it. By being a member, you also get valuable protection for your loved ones should you pass away whilst paying into USS and protection if you have to retire early owing to ill health. If you opt out of USS, you will no longer be eligible for this cover.

Should you decide that you do not want to be a member of USS you can opt out but this cannot be done in advance of your first day of employment; if you joined the scheme by being auto-enrolled under the Government's criteria, this also cannot be done before you have received your enrolment notice. You will only receive a refund of contributions if you opt out within the first 3 months’ of being enrolled into the scheme. If you decide to withdraw after being a member for 3 months, you can do so by giving the University and USS at least 28 days’ written notice. Your withdrawal will be effective at the end of the month in which the notice expires. Please note, your deferred pension will be calculated differently if you leave after three months and within two years of joining the scheme.

Further information on how to opt out of scheme membership can be found on USS's 'Leaving or already left' webpage.

USS and Pensions Tax

For information regarding pension tax, please visit our internal Pensions and Taxation webpage.

Upcoming Scheme Changes

From 1 April 2024, the following changes are due to come in to the scheme:

  • The rate at which USS members can build up a pension in their Retirement Income Builder (up to the salary threshold) will increase from 1/85th of their salary to 1/75th.

  • The salary threshold will increase to £70,296 per annum (£5,858 per month). This means that members will be able to build a greater portion of defined benefits in their Retirement Income Builder.

  • All USS members’ defined benefit pensions in the Retirement Income Builder will still continue to increase annually in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation but up to a higher cap of 10% rather than 2.5%. This will be applied based on certain parameters.

  • If you are eligible and have any period of active membership in the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2024, and you do not retire before 1 April 2024, you’ll receive a £215 uplift to your annual pension, plus an associated £645 retirement lump sum (subject to certain criteria). If you’ve retired and meet the criteria, you’ll get a pension uplift of £241 per year. See the USS one-off uplift FAQs for the criteria.

USS Webinars 

 Title  Date Register
Understanding DC (the Investment Builder) 20 June 2024 9.30am Register
Planning for retirement 20 June 2024 12.00pm  Register
 Leaving USS 20 June 2024 2.30pm Register
 About USS 17 July 2024 9.30am Register
 Leaving USS 17 July 2024 12.00pm Register
 Planning for retirement  17 July 2024 2.30pm Register