Medical professional and older man talking about ill health retirement

Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) reach a point where it feels impossible to carry on at work due to their condition and this can lead to a crossroads. If you find yourself at the point where you feel you can no longer continue at work, early retirement might be the next step.

Initial considerations

There are several things to consider prior to speaking to your employer about your intention to take ill-health retirement.

The first and most important question to ask yourself is whether it is your current job that has become too much (even with reasonable adjustments), or if any kind of work is too much. This is important as ill-health retirement is a big step and usually one which symbolises that you will not work again.

If you feel that your current job is too much, you might want to consider looking for another which may be better suited to you, rather than choosing to retire early. You may also wish to explore the possibility and suitability of part-time or flexible working.

‘When I was forced to give up my career due to my worsening MS, I think it took me a couple of years to come to terms with it. My self-esteem was fully based upon my achievements at work, and I found it hard to come to terms with’

Any form of ill-health retirement will require the support of your consultant and/or MS nurse, so it is a good idea to discuss it with them. They will typically look at how you are now and your prognosis for the future. Having this conversation may help you decide whether ill-health retirement is right for you at that particular time, or not.

Contact your pension providers as they will be able to give you a clear indication of what their criteria is to qualify for ill-health retirement, along with your options. Be aware of the different rules which apply to early retirement, depending upon the type of pension you may have.

Consult your financial adviser, if you have one, or speak to Pension Wise which is a free service powered by the UK Government that offers access to impartial pensions advice.

Check your entitlement to benefits which will help to support you financially post-retirement. This might be in the form of Employment and Support Allowance and/or Personal Independence Payment. There are a number of online benefits calculators that are available which will help you determine the benefits that you may be able to claim, such as the ones provided by Entitledto and Turn2Us.

Once you have completed these steps, carefully considered any alternative options, and have decided that ill-health retirement is the right choice for you, the next step is to discuss this decision with your employer.

‘Medical retirement became the best and only option for me. This was backed up by evidence from a full neuropsychological assessment’

Can I be forced to take ill health retirement?

The short answer is ‘no’, however this is with caveats. For example, if your job requires a level of physical or mental ability, which your employer feels that you are no longer able to achieve, then they may approach you about taking ill-health retirement. Their decision must be underpinned by reasonable and appropriate evidence, and you have the right to challenge and appeal any decision if you are not in agreement.