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Ill Health Retirement from Teaching - Wrong Tier Awarded, what shall we do?

Hi,

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. I’m posting on behalf of my wife. Aged 36 she is in the process of retiring from her job as a teacher due to ill health. She has relapsing remitting MS and has been suffering with neurological issues in the main, rather than physical issues since her last relapse around a year ago.

The opinion of the medical experts we have been dealing with over the past few months is that due to the specific nature of my wife’s neurological issues, she struggles to deal with the expectations of teaching, she would be capable of some form of full time work. My wife and I share the same opinion. We applied to Teacher Pensions with the hope that partial ill health retirement (cannot work as a teacher, but free to work in other areas) would be awarded. Despite the evidence provided to Teacher Pensions from consultants singing from this same hymn sheet, to our surprise my wife has been awarded full ill health retirement, which would mean that she would be unable to work in any form of gainful employment.

I know that for those who clearly cannot work any longer in any shape or form, this is what they would want, however at the present time, we feel that this is an incorrect assessment, and my wife has been ‘written off’ as having no job prospects and aged 36, with only around 13 years of service to (I believe) she is likely to receive a small amount of money per month, much less than a job which she may be more suited to and able to cope with so rather than being a benefit, this retirement award will actually be restrictive to someone in her position.She is physically able to walk for miles, has no major issues with looking after herself, etc.

Our initial thought is to appeal against the level of the award in the hope it gets ‘downgraded’ to partial ill health. We are in a quandary – we do need to find out exactly what lump sum and monthly amount she would receive, but if our assumption is correct that the payments will be very low then we need to think about what to do next

My wife’s health is stable at present and as per above we and doctors believe she could work at the moment. If we appeal now and she receives partial ill health retirement, is free to work in non-teaching roles, then at a later date 1 year, 10 years, 20 years in the future if her health deteriorates over time to a point when she may not be able to work in any shape or form, will she be able to re-apply (with up to date evidence) and potentially be awarded full health retirement? I appreciate pension rules/assessment criteria change over time.

Is there anything here that we’re missing and need to consider? The above is all financial - my wife’s health and mental wellbeing is my paramount concern but both us are cautious about taking a rash step now that we regret in the future as we do have financial commitments of a mortgage and I myself have just been made redundant so this is simply the harsh reality of the situation. I know this is specific to teacher pensions, however I believe this kind of two tier award for ill health is similar across many public sector pension schemes.

Thanks for reading,

Tony

Hi,

I can’t write much at the moment but did want to say this. I was granted total ill health retirement from teaching in 2011, I have PPMS. My award was made up to half the amount it would have been if I’d worked to retirement age. I had 20 years to normal retirement age, my pension was what I’d put in plus 10 years.
I appreciate it’s not the only consideration but if the rules are the same it’s a point to consider.

Sarah

Not an expert and also NHS not teaching. However, I thought that if you were awarded Tier 2 ill health retirement you still could work but had been assessed as not being able to. Does your wife belong to a Union? They’d be the people to ask or someone in HR.

Hang on a minute: the point of full IHR is surely that you are paid a pension based on your salary (or something similar) and your accrued pensionable service but projected out to normal retirement age. That’s the whole point of it. It isn’t usually based on actual pensionable service accrued; it is based on assumed pensionable service out to normal retirement age, not the actual date of retirement. Most full IHR pensions work more or less like that. So your wife’s IHR pension might be based on 35+ years’ service, not 16.

Sorry if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. But if you are not completely sure about what the implications of the medical assessment are (and it sounds to me as if you aren’t yet) then please do get chapter and verse from the personnel department, the Trade Union rep or whatever before you make any decisions.

Alison

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your wife’s occupational pension scheme should send out an annual projection of what her pension will be.

you could try ringing or writing to them (or both) asking for an up to date projection.

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Carole, surely the annual Pension Benefit Statement will not typically show what an individual’s IHR pension benefits might be? That kind of detailed information is usually only made available to individuals (typically only with the agreement of heir managers), generated by whoever deals with pensions nuts and bolts.

Of course, the broad basis on which IHR will be calculated will always be in the Scheme Rules, which any Scheme member should have access to, typically electronically. Also, it would also be usual for an employee to have received at least a summary of her benefits package - including pension benefits and what are the IHR provisions should an employee’s health break down and her contract be so terminated - at the time of appointment and thereafter if/when there are important changes in Scheme Rules. So it would be worth the OP’s while to sift through such pensions/benefits related bumph that might be sitting around somewhere in the house and that might give a rough idea of how IHR works. Or that has been my experience anyway.

Of course I wasn’’ a teacher, and there will be teachers on here who have been dismissed on IHR who will have more recent and more far pertinent knowledge than I do. Maybe you are one of them, in which case I apologise for questioning you!

Alison

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Thanks for the replies so far - we will be attempting to get a summary of the likely amounts from Teacher’s Pensions. Sarah/dogtanian is right, the Tier 2 award still uses the same methodology, my wife would only receive what she has paid in over her 13 years + her expected contributions for half the number of years leading up to normal pensionable age, sadly.

I’m not a teacher but work in local government. In our pension scheme there are three tiers. From your description it sounds like you are getting the highest award, if the teachers scheme is the same as local government then what Alison says in her first post is correct, that is they take your years service to date and then add on the remaining numbers of years to your normal retirement date. A colleague of mine took Ill Health Retirement last year on this basis.

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Pensions are a grey area at the best of times.

A couple of months ago I contact my union to find if I was eligible to retire early on ill health, I have 2 pensions, one frozen (from previous job), the other still active with my current employer, but both are held with the same pension company, after some research I was advised by the union financial advisor that the amounts paid out would be very very low compared to retirement at full age.

He also reckons that with some pensions if retiring on ill health the pensions are sort of passed to an insurance claim, so it’s the insurance side of your pension that pays out, which as he put it, “you know how much insurance companies dont like paying out” !

Not sure if this applies to all pensions types ?

To be honest I was even more confused after speaking to this chap so I just let things drop.

My hope is that I will be able to reach full retirement age in 10’ish years ?

For what it’s worth, if you Google retiring on ill health, it’s seems as though civil servants, or anyone on government tier type pensions have different rules in place to anyone on a “normal” company/private pension.

Best advice I can offer is to go to the people that can offer correct advice in this field.

Perhaps start with Pensions Advisory Service ?

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I think the first thing to do is find out just how much lump sum and monthly pension your wife would get if she went for the full health retirement - surprised you’ve not done that. If she has been assessed as too unwell to teach even part time is her present job still open to her or has she burnt her bridges. My gut feeling would be to take the full ill-health retirement pension -

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Hi Tony, first step should be to check all options and bear in mind the condition may deteriorate quickly or slowly, there’s no telling.

Speak to HR to gain full knowledge of the options they can offer. There’s more than 1 option. Ask your wife to see if she has a Key Features Document within the Pension Scheme paperwork. If she has, then a list of benefits will be clear. Benefits such as Death in Service, Permanent Pay whilst too sick to work. What arrangements will the employer provide to enable continued employment. (Employer Law & Disability Act). If they cannot adapt the role, is there an insurance pay out? How long can she remain employed whilst off work sick & continue paying % into the Pension Scheme? Is there an option to leave the Pension with its providers in a Deferred Pension, and invest so it will grow at rate of inflation?

Consider your wife’s condition may not lead to permanent disability, but could interfere with her capabilities & thought processes. If she changed employers to a less demanding role or left full time work to work part time, she may not have the generous holidays of teachers. Is there an option to leave the employer, claim her Pension and be free to find a more suitable job with enough hours to rest.

Meanwhile, you can either find employment OR you could become a full time carer for your wife. You may qualify to receive Carers allowance. Some MS sufferers can apply for their council tax to be in the next band down. Same house, value, just the disability allows residents to apply. Your wife can apply for PIP benefits, granted to help disabled individuals.

Income changes are inevitable when ill health interferes with our Life plans. It forces us to rethink the plans. We don’t need many material things. Your wife’s quality of life will be affected by MS, no amount of income can buy it. She’ll need warmth, food, drinks, armchairs & suitable bed mattress to rest in. The biggest help is being loved and appreciated.

Your wife may have invisible symptoms of more disability to affect her. She may not. It is most likely her diagnosed condition will deteriorate at some point. Many of us look like nothing is wrong, because we look well. If our damaged brains were outside our skin, disability would be clearly seen.

Now Tony, you’ll gather I’m straight talking. I have to ask you; Why is it yourself who is stating your wife can walk miles (with NO affect). Why is it yourself who is gathering information to ensure your wife WILL continue to work full time (just not teaching) and IS capable. Why are you disregarding the seriousness of the Pension Providers medics who recommend full ill health pension benefits. Has anyone suggested your wife should work full time? It’s bad enough that your wife has MS, she could do without the stress of having to work for monetary gain, at the cost of her health? At the end of the day she’s got the rough end of this stress as well as incurable brain & spinal nerve damage. Alas, we can’t have our cake and eat it.

I really don’t want to be rude, but you seem determined the medics have to change their decision & your wife may be too concerned about income, that she will continue to work. At 36, she has a long battle ahead with no indication of when the next fall will be. Her whole life is insecure and your job, as a clearly loving husband, surely is to continue reassuring her and asking her not to worry.

Even so, I do believe the employees have some responsibility to your wife. If their medics state she has to retire early and deigns her to a life of daytime tv, then the pension amount should equal that of full service.

I wish you both good luck

Contact CAB and the union for support, they kicked arse when my employer was terrible, the union lady phoned my employer up and said she would be getting in her car in a minute and driving to their office. All of a sudden, everything was sorted.

Surely the reason your wife was given teir 2 was because she has a progressive disease that only gets worse. If she was awarded tier 1 she could soon find herself being unable to work completely in the teaching profession so teir 2 is the obviously practical and correct teir.

The pension company must have a list of criteria that operate the teirs and MS would surely be teir 2 as it is progressive.

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