ESA Question

I received a call today regarding ESA, they are going to send me a form to fill in. I was retired from my previous job through ill health and get a pension from them, when I retired I was told that I could not take any form of paid employment. When I asked the person on the phone about this she was very dismissive and said this has had nothing to do with it. What do i do?

Hi Red,

I would claim it, and cross that bridge when (if) you come to it.

If your pension was awarded on the basis that you could not, at that time, undertake any sort of work, it seems unlikely things will have improved since, MS being what it is. So you may not be found fit for work, and the issue won’t arise.

Technically, though, the lady is right. If your reason for not seeking work is because the terms of your pension impose a bar on it, rather than because your health doesn’t permit, that’s a private matter between you and the pension people, NOT a relevant factor in determining your entitlement to benefits.

Worst case, if you were found fit for work (I’m not saying you will be), is you might have to choose between benefits and pension. Since pension will almost certainly be better (and subject to fewer onerous conditions, such as interviews or having to actively look for work), sticking with the pension and withdrawing the benefits claim would probably be the lesser of two evils.

But this is only if, and I do mean IF you were found fit for work, and couldn’t get it overturned on appeal.

If you’re not found fit for work anyway, you may be able to claim both benefits and your pension, without breaching the terms of either. However, for either type of ESA (contributory or income based), your pension income may be taken into account. If your pension is only small, it might not make any difference. But if it’s a generous pension, you might not qualify for ESA.


There isn’t a single definition of fit for work. Your pension scheme’s critera are specific to it, and not do not necessarily apply elsewhere.


An occupational pension is not in itself a bar to claiming ESA or any other income replacing benefit. I bet lots of people on here have a pension from their old employment and claim Incapacity Benefit or ESA. (I do)

The terms for ill health retirement pensions are peculiar to your employer. I remember when I got mine you couldn’t be a supply teacher for Leeds local authority but could work for any other authority, or in Leeds doing anything other than teaching for a limited number of hours per week. Claiming benefit is not working though.

So, you can apply for ESA and it will have no effect whatsoever on your pension. However your pension income will have an effect on ESA.

There are two kinds of ESA:
Contribution based (based on NI contributions of the last 3 years)
Income based (which looks at all the money coming into the household including partner’s wages and savings)

The rules for pension income are different for each
Contribution based – gross pension income of more than £85 a week, the amount of benefit payable will be reduced by half of the excess.
Also contribution based ESA is taxable.
Income based – all pension income will be considered.

It is entirely up to you if you decide to apply for ESA or not but here is somethings to consider.

NI contributions will have stopped when you stopped work. If you do not fulfill the requirements (look at to find out what they are) you will only get contribution based ESA.
If you have a working partner it is unlikely that you would get any money so you have to ask yourself if it’s worth all the tararadiddle