Stopping work and ill health retirement

This information applies to England and Wales.

If you need some time off work to manage your health, sick leave can allow you to return to work when you feel well enough.

Sick leave and sick pay

If working is affecting your health, you might consider stopping work.

But before this, think about:

Finding work that suits your life and condition

It can help to talk to someone about your options. This could be a friend or family member or perhaps someone from a union, employee assistance helpline or an advice centre.

Talk to others in Scope’s online community

Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments might allow you to carry on working.

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments so that it does not place a disabled person at a disadvantage against a colleague who is not disabled.

Examples of reasonable adjustments can include:

Reasonable adjustments at work

If you’re not sure what adjustments you need, Access to Work grants can pay for specialist assessments, which will recommend adjustments.

Access to Work

Reasonable adjustments can start or change at any time. If you already have reasonable adjustments, you can ask for a review.

Support to help you keep your job when ill or disabled (MoneyHelper)

Changing jobs

If you leave your job because of ill health retirement, you’re allowed to get a different job if you feel able to.

Finding jobs

For example, you find the physical part of your job harder to do. You need to stop working because it’s affecting your health. You can still work if the role is sitting at a desk.

Ill health retirement

Ill health retirement is when you leave work before the age of 55, due to disability or illness.

There are no benefits specifically for ill health retirement. You might be eligible for benefits if you’re:

  • disabled or have a long-term health condition
  • unable to work because of disability or a condition

Having enough money

Getting your pension

You cannot get your State Pension until State Pension age.

Check your State Pension age (GOV.UK)

If you are over 55, you may be able to take a personal or workplace pension early.

Early retirement, your pension and benefits (GOV.UK)

Warning Get expert independent advice

Seek legal employment advice before starting the ill health retirement process.

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

A regulated financial adviser can give you individual advice on the best way of converting your pension into your retirement income.

Find a retirement adviser (MoneyHelper)

Talking to your employer about ill health retirement

Your employer is not allowed to suggest ill health retirement as a way to get you to leave the company. This could be disability discrimination because ill health retirement is your choice. Your employer should make reasonable adjustments to allow you to work if you feel able to.

Disability discrimination at work

If you decide that ill health retirement is the right option for you, you need to tell your manager. Your manager cannot stop you from leaving.

If you’re a member of a union, they may be able to give you advice or support you in meetings. Your employer’s human resources (HR) team may also be able to help.

Keep notes about every conversation you have on ill health retirement. If possible, ask someone to come with you to meetings. They can write notes so you can concentrate on what is being said. The notes should include:

  • the date and time
  • who was there
  • what people said

You should not record the meetings, unless you have written permission from everyone.

After the meeting, send an email thanking people for attending, confirming what happened in the meeting and the main points. This would stand as evidence if required.

Providing evidence

To get ill health retirement, you must provide medical evidence that you cannot do any of the following:

  • your job
  • any other job for your employer
  • your job or a similar one until you reach state retirement age
  • have treatment that would allow you to do your job

Legal advice can help to make sure the evidence is strong enough for ill health retirement. The evidence should come from a medical professional who can show the impact your condition has on working. You might have to pay for this.

For private and workplace pensions, the evidence you’ll need will depend on their policy. This could include an independent assessment which is normally done by occupational health.

While you are younger than your State Pension age, your pension company might ask you to be assessed during your early retirement. This is to check that you are still unable to work for that company.

Pension payments

Knowing how much money you can get from your pension will help you plan for the future and make sure you have enough money. The amount of money you receive will depend on:

  • how many years you have worked
  • the amount you have earned

You might have more than 1 pension. Look at them to decide how much money you might receive. These can include:

  • State Pension, from the government
  • workplace pension, paid by you
  • and your employer personal pensions, paid by you

Plan your retirement income: step by step (GOV.UK)

If you are unsure about a workplace pension from a previous employer, contact the pension company. You can do this by searching for the company or organisation.

Find pension contact details (GOV.UK)

Self-employment and ill health retirement

If you’re self-employed and need to stop working, you’re not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

You might be able to:

  • claim other benefits
  • use savings
  • access your pension
  • use income protection insurance if you already have a policy

Income protection insurance (Citizens Advice)

Having enough money

Warning Supporting your mental health

If you need support with your mental health, ask when you can.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is important. Everyone manages their mental health differently.

There are many things you can try.

Managing your mental health

Having enough money

If you are on sick leave or are retiring, work out how much money you will have. You might be able to get financial support depending on the amount.

Taking money out of your pension

If you are retiring on ill health, you can decide how to receive your pension. For each pension, you can receive:

  • a lump sum payment
  • monthly income

Look at all of your pension options. You might decide to get guaranteed income (annuity) which means you will have a monthly income for the rest of your life.

Pension options - what can I do with my pot? (MoneyHelper)

You can usually take 25% of your pension tax free. Check the policy of each pension to work out what you will receive.

Warning Getting your pension if you have a serious illness

When retiring on ill health, a serious illness means you’re expected to live for less than a year. If you are seriously ill, you might be able to take your whole pension pot tax free.

Ill health retirement: early medical retirement (MoneyHelper)

Financial support

When you’re retired or on sick leave, you could have less money. Budgeting can help keep track of your money.

Budgeting tips

You could be entitled to other support.

When the council might pay for your care (NHS)

Find out which benefits you can claim by using a benefits calculator.

Benefits calculator (Turn2us)

Looking after your wellbeing

Sometimes ill health retirement can improve your wellbeing. It can help you to:

  • manage your condition
  • be less stressed
  • get better sleep

Exercise guidelines and workouts to help improve your fitness and wellbeing (NHS)

Connecting with others or learning a new skill might help you to adjust. This can include:

  • volunteering
  • starting a hobby
  • joining a support network
  • doing a course

Talk to our online community

Volunteer (GOV.UK)

Volunteer from home (Life of Pippa)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 18/03/2024

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