You or your employer can apply for ill-health retirement if you have to leave your job early because you’re too ill to work.

Criteria for ill-health retirement

To qualify for ill-health retirement, you must:

  • have at least two years’ qualifying service; and
  • have suffered a breakdown in health that is likely to stop you working until retirement age

The pension schemes’ ill-health retirement criteria is summarised below:

  1. Classic – the criteria for ill health retirement in classic are that an individual is prevented by ill health from discharging his or her duties and that the ill health is likely to be permanent.
  2. Classic Plus, Premium, Nuvos and alpha – there are two levels, or tiers, of ill-health retirement. The tier given depends on the effect of the incapacity on your ability to carry out work. If they are unable to decide which of the criteria is met, the Scheme Medical Adviser (OHS) can recommend a provisional pension benefit at the rate most appropriate at the time.
  • upper tier level: An individual has suffered a permanent breakdown in health and the resulting incapacity prevents them from discharging their own job and of undertaking any other gainful employment.
  • lower tier level: An individual has suffered a permanent breakdown in health and the resulting incapacity prevents them from discharging their own job or a comparable job.

How to apply for ill-health retirement

First, you should speak to your employer. Your employer must tell you about your right to apply for ill-health retirement and if they intend to refer you for it. 

Your manager or HR department will guide you through each stage of the ill-health retirement application process. 

If your employer proposes to retire you for medical reasons, or if you wish to retire on medical grounds, your case will be referred to the OHS at the earliest possible stage. If, in accordance with the advice given by the OHS, the Department decides to retire you on medical grounds, your retirement should not actually take place before the date of the retirement certificate (MR1 form), but action should take place immediately on its receipt. It should be noted that if your retirement does not take place within 4 months and 10 days of the date of the MR1, it will be necessary to resubmit the case to the OHS for recertification.

More information about the ill-health retirement process can be found in the HR policy document accessible below which describes how retirement on medical grounds is managed in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS).

Leaving the Service

The Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA)

When a medical condition is severe enough to warrant ill-health retirement, it’s generally expected that you’ll have had a specialist opinion during your illness.

During the ill-health retirement process, you’ll also need to be assessed by our appointed Scheme Medical Adviser which is the Occupational Health Service (OHS).

Early Payment of Preserved Award (EPPA)

This only applies to  members who were in the Classic pension scheme when they left employment.

If you left your employment before retirement age and have a preserved pension in Classic only, you can apply to receive your pension benefits before retirement age if your health breaks down after leaving. Your benefits will not be enhanced but they do attract pensions increase and are not subject to further review. 

The conditions for early payment of a preserved pension in Classic are that, after leaving your employment with a preserved pension in Classic, you fall ill before your scheme pension age and had you remained in your employment as a member of Classic you would have been retired on grounds of ill-health.

Early payment of preserved pension on medical grounds is not available to Classic Plus, Premium, Nuvos or alpha members – except in cases of serious ill-health in which life expectancy is twelve months or less.

Applications for early payment of a preserved Classic pension will require a medical assessment. You should request this through Civil Service Pensions.

Medical Appeals Process (MAP)

MAP is an appeals mechanism where the dispute is based on the medical opinion rather than the scheme rules. 

MAP will apply when there is a dispute based on the medical opinion in cases of;

Applications for early payment of preserved benefits on grounds of ill health for deferred Classic members (or deferred members of Premium, Classic Plus, Nuvos and alpha whose life expectancy is deemed less than 12 months.)

Retirement on the tiered ill health benefits under the Premium/Classic Plus and Nuvos arrangements of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Northern Ireland) [PCSPS(NI)] and the alpha pension scheme.

Reviews of the tiered ill health benefits under Premium/Classic Plus or Nuvos arrangements of PCSPS(NI) and the alpha pension scheme.

MAP will not apply in Injury Benefit cases where appeals will continue to be conducted under the Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) procedures.

Please read the  Medical Appeals Process (MAP) leaflet for guidance on how to appeal.

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