UK - Public sector workers such as doctors and teachers who choose to volunteer their skills abroad will have their pension contributions paid from a new pension fund, following a decision by the government.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for International Development and the Department of Health said on Saturday they have committed £13m to cover the pension contributions of any public servant, while they are absent for up to two years as an overseas volunteer.

Pension contributions will be dependent on the volunteer returning to UK public service employment for a minimum of six months.

Commenting on the move, the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) body , said: "The fund demonstrates government recognition that public servants who volunteer overseas return with experiences and skills that will directly benefit the UK public sector, and employers are encouraged to regard international volunteering as part of a structured professional development plan."

The fund will buy added pension benefits (or equivalent) for any current public servant who returns to a pensionable UK public service job after an overseas volunteer assignment, according to a statement.

It will be available to workers from April until March 2011 for periods of between seven and 24 months. Pensions contributions will be based on workers' salaries.

VSO, which will manage the scheme, said there are currently around 350 UK public servants per year who take up assignments abroad, from a public service of some four million.

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