School suggesting I take 'early medical retirement' - anyone with experience of this procedure?

I have had to take quite a lot of time off school (TA) with flare-up / infections. The school have now suggested that they get Occ Health involved so that we can go down the early retirement route. I am 52 years old, a single parent with a 17-year old at home still. I am happy to look at retirement (although I feel the school are trying to get rid of me because they are striving for an 'excellent' Ofsted grading!!!) but worry about the financial side. I'm assuming that my first port of call will be CAB followed by talking to the Pensions dept at the County Council offices.

Anyone been through this procedure?

20 Replies

  • Hello

    You are in your early 50 s and they want you to retire as a disabled. They need to contact the Doctor they use for medicals. and works social team

    Generally, you would contact your Union who will represent you at board meetings, Because you are a public Service worker, your employer needs to prove that you are unable to do the work you are contracted to do, they also need to possibly offer a post that you would be able to do. This board will possibly need to meet three times, The works doctor will also need a medical from you. He may disagree with your department.

    You will on top of above make an approach to your GP He will be dealing with the public service Doctor, So the GP would advise you and deal with the other Doctor Go to your GP as your first port of call, He could possibly disagree with your department. The whole thing in some instances could go on for a couple of months depending on the system they choose. Generally when first approaches are made you may have to go on the sick straight away. This is why you need to discuss this with your GP as He will need to give a sick note. The GP will then discuss your condition with the works doctor. You will not be able to go to Board meetings, only the union will be able to do this.

    After all of this you will need to discuss all of this with the DWP although worry about that later. You will have a long way to go before this stage, Although things may have changed over the years

    If you need a further chat come back and I will try and keep you on course it is one complicated system that is there to protect you

    BOB .

  • Thanks Bob (and Truly!). Some excellent advice there - it all sounds so scary though! I am not a union member. My rheumy specialist nurse has suggested that it is now time to start thinking about winding down! What role do Occ Health play? I'm assuming that they will have to come and assess my working environment (I am a Food Technology TA in a primary school) to see if my job can be adapted? (Try kneading bread all week with year 5's with RA in your hands - not sure there is much OH can do!!). I have an appt with GP later this week for a BP check so will bring the subject up then.

    Many thanks again.


  • They should be looking at reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act before deciding on Ill-health retirement. This might mean changes to your hours, use of technology i.e. food processors, being able to rest/ sit down when necessary. You might be able to work a shorter week and get Tax credits to make up the shortfall financially. I would join the union straight away - they know the procedures better than management usually and will make sure every thing is done by the book.

  • The GP will send you an O/T, to assist in home environment, possibly the employer will send their social team in as well. This will be reported to the board who will make a decision.

    If you want it may be a good idea to discuss all of this with the Job Centre Disability Officer. They may assist in the workplace by supplying self help adaptations.

    The more you can get involved the better and it may assist in you staying in employment

    The Disability discrimination Act will also need to be taken into consideration, With me that law was not that time So there is a long way to go before they can get rid of you


  • Im a TA in primary and have been there for 22yrs I find myself in a similar situation as the 52yr old lady although I am 61. I attend 3 appointments quarterly and sometimes referrals or follow up checks at hospital which are now sent via text. The head has spoken to me about my health and work life balance and asked if I had considered the option of early and gave me the phone number . 3 wks later he asked if I had rung I explained there wasn't really any point because of the finance. He then offered to check it out for me,I declined the offer. Several wks have passed and now he has informed that he is involving occupational health due to the appointments being in school time. I do feel uncomfortable as he has made it very clear that we have different views and opinions. However I was upset having asked about partime hours he said yes he would be only guarantee the post for 1 yr and I would have a new contract. Where do I stand can I ask to be retired on health grounds ?

  • Just posting to say hello. I think BOB has given you lots of good advice...I hope it works out all ok for you. Maryx

  • The school will have access to an Occupational Health dept and that is where you need to start. You can contact Access to Work a govt organisation who can assess your workplace and specify what adaptations need to be made. You are covered by the Equality Act (it's replaced the DDA) as a person with a disability. Given your age I would do everything that you possibly can to remain in work, as someone else has suggested you can reduce your hours and so long as you're doing at least 16 hrs a week you can claim Disability Working Tax Credit. It would also be worth applying for DLA / PIP as that would help you to pay for help in the home etc.

    Definitely join the Union, you need to take someone with you to any meetings that you have with your employer and they will be clued up about your rights.

    Good luck with this and keep posting:-)

    Cece x

  • Unless you have any objections its still not too late to join union and it might help.

    Do you want to retire? It might be worth looking at the options - eg. would it be worth retiring and going back on a few hours a week so that they dont lose your experience? What pension arrangements do you have? Its worth really preparing while you're in work.

    I retired earlier than I expected, though after 61, from a university teaching and research job. My RA has really improved since I dont have so much stress and I have time to paint and draw and follow things I want to do. So, providing it wouldnt be financially too tight, then its worth it. But that's quite a tall order these days isnt it.

    Good luck

  • Hi Lilibet

    I got ill-health retirement from teaching earlier this year - different pension scheme, similar process I should think. One of the first things to do is contact your pension provider and fine out how much your pension is currently worth, ie what you can expect to get. That will help you decide whether you intend to fight this or whether you want to go with the flow.

    Pension providers have got much tougher with their regulations for who is entitled to retire on medical grounds. They will expect to see that reasonable adjustments have been made, and that these have not proved successful. They will want to read how the disease impacts your work - I was advised by someone else on here to focus on the impact on health and safety for pupils, although I also was very clear about the impact of my disability on pupils' learning and progress. I also commented on the added impact of medication, ie that painkillers added to the fog and fatigue that I experience because of the disease. They will also want a clear statement from a doctor, preferably a consultant rather than your GP, that you are unable to do the job and that this will not change in the future.

    I also detailed on my form all the adjustments that the school had made, even tiny things, so that the TPA could see that things had been tried. The school also had to supply a list of all my absences in the previous three years - if you have been struggling to get into work regardless of how you feel, now may be the time to start ringing in sick when you feel bad, because you are trying to make a case for being unable to work.

    Definitely join a union, although enquire whether they will support you with this as the process has already been put into motion. Consult the CAB for advice, although they may not have full knowledge of your pension scheme, and also talk to your pension provider, or look online for what their requirements are. Also have a read of the Equality Act 2010 which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act, and check out what employers' responsibilities are. Just because your employer doesn't fancy making adjustments, it doesn't mean they don't have to. Or at least they need to be very clear about why they can't make them. Occupational Health will also need to be involved, and they will make recommendations to your employer about adjustments they should be making, or whether you are no longer able to do the job.

    It's a lot to take on, and if you are feeling too ill to do the job currently, there is nothing wrong with being signed off for a while to see if things improve if you have a proper rest. I was off for nearly six months, and made no significant progress in that time, but I know of other people who have had some months off sick and then gone back to an adjusted workplace who are then coping fine.

    It's lots to get your head round - take your time and don't let people push you into things you aren't happy about.

    Good luck,

    Dotty x

  • Some good advice from Dotty. I too took early retirement from teaching three years ago. Initially I saw an OT and had a medical, I consulted my union who were amazing. I saw the OT three times before being referred to the Local Authority Doctor. The school had tried really hard to accommodate me, they had given me late starts and a reduced timetable but the fatigue and effects of the drugs meant that I wasn't on the ball really and the kids were suffering from my poor attendance. Stress the fatigue side of things. I was given ill health retirement straight away with no complications. Push for it if it is what you want. If it isn't then see what the school are prepared to offer you to keep you in work. Good luck


  • Great advice above, I went through it all , access to work , cab , OT , personell , Union , who were all amazing! I eventually in agreement with them after all other efforts retired on ill health. , but a little word of warning. In my job I got retired and then had to apply for my wary pension , I got support from personell and my manager and occu health , but there was the possibility they could have refused it ! They didn't of course as they can't lay u off without a formal assessment! But it was a worry at the time! But I am so much better for not rushing to work even if I am skint and can't have the luxury holidays now xxxx

  • I left school in stages rather than through the early retirement option. The school were very accommodating about changing my hours and job description and I gradually reduced from teaching full time to a part-time with combined teaching and T/A responsibilities so that I was able to sit more.

    Because I was in receipt of DLA I was still entitled to working tax credit at 16 hours work rather than the 30 hours normally required. The working tax credit was really worth having and helped tremendously with reducing my hours. I was also a single mum so got family tax credit too.

    What I was able to negotiate with the school was not just a reduction of hours but also a reduction of days. I was able to do my 16 hours knowing that once I got through that, I would have 4 days off to recover.

    Eventually though, I knew that I was beginning to let down the children and the school so I just took it upon myself to leave and claim Incapacity Benefit. This has all changed now though so goodness knows what you can claim. I have been so much better since giving up work but still miss it badly. There are other things in life though.

    I hope it works out for you. x

  • Lots of good advice here. I would get some union representation, you can join at any time.

    I was eventually finished on ill health grounds on the 22/11/13 following 2 years of absence from my job as a staff nurse. Still no pension yet, will be 1 year in march 2014 since I applied. I will be reassessed medically then to see if they will accept that I am not fit to do my previous job.

    Good luck, my RA has not stabilized so far, but not having to struggle out of bed to get to work has been a huge bonus. No more early rises after 36 years nursing, definitely a bonus.


  • Lots of good advice here. Just wanted to say I took ill health retirement at 54. I got 6 years enhancement to my pension, and a lump sum. So it was not too scary, it is expensive to work, what with smart clothes and travel costs. Also not working is good for your RA. But beware, as if you teach again your pension will be suspended.

  • Thanks guys for so much good advice. Just an update....

    Having given this much thought, I have decided that early retirement will be the best thing for me. Personal circumstances mean that in about 18 months time I plan to move from Essex to be nearer to my elderly parents in Suffolk which means giving up my job anyway. Financially, I should be able to manage comfortably.

    The school have been very supportive and understand my reasons for retiring.

    Yesterday, the Head and I completed a referral form which will be sent to Occ Health. I can expect a meeting with them in the New Year to determine which level of retirement I will be on (i.e. never able to work again, working but with adaptations, can work again when well etc.).

    I was stumped by one question though - are you disabled? I know that for many of us we do not class ourselves as disabled, but on the other hand, we are not 'able' in the fullest sense of the word. What would you have answered?

  • Yes! The more things you can get on that form that suggest you should retire early with as much pension as possible, the better.

    Even the government considers rheumatoid arthritis a disability, and makes special reference to it in the Equality Act and the accompanying notes. It's also worth noting that these definitions apply to diseases in their untreated state. If I wasn't being successfully treated for my disease then I would be disabled by anyone's standards! If you need weekly chemo to be able to walk across the room, then you're disabled for sure. Seriously,the definition of a disability is "a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities". There's some useful information here: and also a link to the Equality Act itself.

    It sounds like your school are handling this well, and sensitively, and you have got your head round it a bit more.

    Good luck with it all - I hope everything goes smoothly.

    Dotty x

  • This sounds like quite good news. Do keep as many of your options open as much as you can as long as it doesnt compromise your pension/ financial situation. I found that after retirement the stress levels which were making my RA so difficult to handle, went down, and I've been able to do much more. Of course you might, like me, take up something you've always wanted to...

  • I agree with that. Retirement is a blast!

    Dotty x

  • Yes went through this about 8yrs ago. It's hard but in the end I did get my pension and the made it up to the full 30yrs. Good luck I'll be think of you.

  • Hi Guys! Should have updated this post months ago! My 'ill health retirement' journey started on Jan 4th 2014 with an appt with the OH dept. They agreed that I was eligible for early retirement and signed all the forms accordingly. Backed up by my GP, rheumy team, headteacher etc. I was awarded full level 1 ill-health retirement in July 2014 (although I was signed off by the GP from February 2014). I also qualified for all the disability benefits I applied for and, with some careful planning, am able to live quite frugally on this income plus my enhanced pension. Since retirement, my RA has settled quite dramatically, stress levels have bottomed out to nothing and I have been able to devote much more time to my favourite hobby, family history. As long as I pace myself and spend my days 'pottering' I can cope with the RA fairly well. On bad days I have the luxury of being able to stop and rest now.

    To anyone contemplating this route, I would say without hesitation, GO FOR IT. Your health has to come first. I don't regret early retirement for one moment - just a shame that RA was the cause!

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