Ill health retirement due to RA

I have been off work since September 2015  with a bad flre. During this time I have become increasingly  depressed  and I am  being  treated with  antidepressants.   I am also taking  Methotrexate  15mgs weekly which is beginning to take  effect,  and  will be increased  to 20mgs in the next few weeks. I  have seen HR and my manager at  work  regularly  and they have been very supportive,  however,  I am unsure as to whether  I am able to return to work and my GP has signed me off until the beginning of June.  

I am 58 in May and have worked all my lifr. I am finding  it difficult to  make a decision about returning to work which is stressing me out, and I am unclear about the implications of ill health retirement. 

Has anyone else  been in  a similar situation? 

21 Replies

  • Hi Kazbah 

    I have also been off work for 3 months now and still don't see when I'll be able to return to work.

    I started my first Biologic in February and as yet, see no change.

    I had a meeting with HR last week and although they seem supportive, I worry that it may become more complicated further down the line.

    I am 52 with 33 years service. The Doctor for OH stated medical retirement might be worth considering in the future but need to exhaust other biologic options first.

    I believe it can be stressful and not always easy to get. The stress certainly doesn't help so I appreciate how you feel.

    I hope it's an easy process for you and it would be good to hear how you get on if you go down that route.

    All the best x

  • I too have been in the same position as you are all going through except I it was 20 years ago & I was only 30, so know how you are all feeling about your unknown future, unfortunately I have been unable to work since, mostly for the reasons that I had ended up losing my job. I have lupus, I worked for the Inland Revenue, they extended my agreed 3 year probation to 5 years, they claimed that it was because of my sick record, so I got no matter how I'll i was I still went in to work. I was under so much pressure by doing other people's work who were on the sick & holidays that I had a serious flair. Apparently it had been illegall for them to hold me under a 5 yr probation, I was offered Medicall Retirement. I was told that if I was to go back to work & took just 1day of sick I would then lose my job & I wouldn't be entitled to go down the retirement part. With the help of my dad & Union rep I took Medical retirement, I would have liked the option of trying to do part time but I wasn't given the chance.

    As I only get £80 p/m pension, I am still working age I have to claim benefits, which are always under scrutiny by the DWP.

    So before any of you make your decisions please check out all of your options, possibly trying to do just a few hours a day may be better than being stuck at home & becoming depressed especially as you are all under 65.

    Good luck with whatever  you do decide to do.

  • Kasbah,

    Apologies for such a long reply.

    Going through a similar situation myself right now.I have been off work since November 5th 2015 initially due to 2 separate episodes of kidney failure due to mtx jabs poisoning me. Following that my legs became ulcerated following lymphodema then 4th January had a massive vitreous haemorrhage in my left eye which has just started to clear.On top of all this I have had my RA to contend with with no meds since the kidney failure.I couldn't believe all these things have happened to me in such a short space of time,but beginning to come out the other side now after a really traumatic few months.I too am 57 years old and have  put in 37 years service with my company and whilst I have been away from work there have been days when I have been champing at the bit just bursting to get back in there as on the whole I really enjoy my job and I am fortunate enough to be able to do my job from home.My employers have done it as a reasonable adjustment which I cannot fault.This has made it so easy for me to continue to work and they are getting more than their monies worth out of me. There are days that I have felt so awful that if I was working in an office I just would not be able to go,but this way I can haul myself out of bed toddle off down stairs in my pj's and do a days work at my workstation.

    However,there have been days that I am so glad I am not there.It is a high pressure job which causes me lots of stress and that is not a good mix with RA and I haven't missed it at all.

    Whilst I have been away there has been a change in the role profile and I am not sure that I like the new job that I would  return to if I did go back - this is stressing me out at the moment as it would be like starting from scratch when I get back.Im currently signed off until May.I am in regular contact with my HR dept but don't find my line manager particularly helpful.

    Someone mentioned reduced hours to me but I am such a control freak that I couldn't share a job it's all or nothing.!!

    My husband would like me to retire tomorrow if he had his way but he will support any decision I make (he has already retired) I thought about it this week but then was scared at the thought of the loss of my salary and would we cope financially.We would cope as I would have a pension.It wouldn't be as much as my salary but it would be adequate.Not sure if I would get ill health retirement or not as it is very difficult with this company and I would need to be on deaths door,but it seems policies vary from company to company.You would need to check with your company to find their stance on this.

    If you are finding it difficult to make a decision would reduced hours be an option for you,Or maybe a change of duties.?At least that way it would give you a chance of a bit more time to make a decision and to assess yourself as to how capable you feel to carry on working.Is it the thought of returning to work after such a long time or the thought of returning to that job that is stressing you out?

    The thought of just packing it all in after 37 years really scares me ,all the plans I had made for my retirement will not come to fruition now as my lack of mobility has put paid to that but I am finding new hobbies to fill my time and I am enjoying the time I am spending with my husband.However if I don't return soon it may be that my employers may decide to terminate my employment on the grounds of capability,so the decision may be taken out of my hands.

    I discussed this with my GP and she told me if my circumstances allowed for it then give up work,37 years was a respectable innings for anyone,and with all my medical conditions it would not be unreasonable.

    I agree it's not an easy decision to make but  it all depends on your individual circumstances and if you can get ill health retirement for your RA then all the better.Seems some companies look more favourably on ill health retirement.

    I really hope you manage to come to the right decision for you that doesn't cause you any more stress than is necessary,and good luck in whatever you decide.


  • I retired a bit early at 61 for various reasons. I was in remission for the first few years so I was able to do various things I'd always wanted to before disaster struck with being taken off all meds. I'd recommend it, but with enough money to keep doing interesting things when able.

    I did quite a few art classes and some online ones. That's the sort of thing that interested me. Until the disaster I was able to meet with friends for coffee and things which was good for keeping me in touch with things.

    I think the key factors were financial, having interests I was able to pursue, and a modicum of reasonable health for the first few years. Hopefully with a new rheumy I'm sorting things out a bit.

    Our cat helps too! And of course my wonderful partner who has also retired a year ago.

  • Hi I had a medical 3 weeks ago and the    Oh depatment for my work recommended ill health retirement so I am waiting for my work to sort things out and for me it was the right outcome , I'm 51 but have been off since last July, I've tried too go back 3 times but it was too heavy for me and it's a big wait off my mind as I was getting stressed out about letting people down, but I realise now your only a number and my health comes first so hope you get the right outcome for yourself take care

  • I got mad redundant six years ago and was advised that i wasn't fit for work even though i wanted to find work,but sadly the person who was advising me at the time was right. I was 55yrs old then and i am 60yr now and to be honest though i didn't like it at the time i couldn't do a days work now if my life depended on it.xxxx

  • If I were you I would retire now, get your pension and apply for PIP if you don't already get it. Spend some quality time while you can, I'm 48 and been in my job 25 years and I would go tomorrow if they woul let me. The pension I would get would be 1/3 of my wages but my DLA would make it a wee bit better. Just cut your cloth to your needs. 

  • Just to add here that PIP is awarded independently of income, whether someone is in work or not, and however much a person earns. So if anyone reading this thinks they qualify because their condition affects their daily living or mobility, they can apply, and don't need to wait for retirement to do it.

  • However, it is only payable for new applicants up until the age of 65.  What happens if you develop severe RA at 65 or older?

  • After 65 if you need help you apply for attendance allowance.

  • I think it is a very different level of disability that applies to attendance allowance  You have to be severely incapacitated to qualify.

  • No, that's not the case. You can apply for Attendance Allowance once you reach 65 if you have any type of disability or care needs. It does include night time care if necessary but it's not a prerequisite, you can still be awarded it

  • I know it doesn't have a mobility component - which seems a bit unfair.  As if once you're over 65 you no longer need to get anywhere! But I've known people who've got it for all sorts of disabilities. 

  • Hi - I understand just what an important decisions this is having recently gone through it myself. After 34years of being a nurse and running a very busy drug and alcohol service I finally gave in and applied for ill health retirement. My lovely Gastrology Consultant (I have Crohns disease as well)  was very supportive as he had suggested this previously, I would not contend with the idea at that point, and my application went through with no problem and I am now in receipt of an NHS ill health pension at the grand age of 52. This was not my beautiful plan but neither was being clobbered by a number of immune system diseases in my forties!  I loved my job and got alot of satisfaction from running a very successful service and have had to go through the process of grief and a redefinition of this aspect of myself and my life and am at the point now where I can see that it was for the best for me and my family as I only had the energy to work with nothing left over for anything else (work all week - collapsed all weekend). I am now able to be there for my four teenagers in a way just not possible previously and we are learning to cut our cloth to our reduced income which is not so difficult now we have the time to shop around.

     I am planning to take a Open University degree next year too as it is important to me to keep my brain from eating itself!

    When I speak to my former colleagues it always reaffirms my decision was the right one as stress levels and work loads are continually increasing and I know this would only increase the likelihood of flares so, whilst it was a painful decision to make, it was the right one.

    Good luck with whatever decision you come to - only you can make it.

  • I left work soon after I was diagnosed  as even tho' my RA was getting under control, I just couldn't get over the exhaustion and so on and my job was v stressful which wasn't helping.  Because my employer had an early retirement scheme if you were over 55, I could just go with a reduced pension.  I could have hung on to push for medical retirement, and get my full pension, but I just couldn't face another day.  

    To me there was something about having loved my job and been successful in my jobs all my life, I couldn't take the idea of hanging on getting less & less effective until they finally pensioned me off with a feeling of being glad to see the back of me. 

    And it really was the best thing I did.  My health improved in leaps & bounds. Financially it was fine as we had the time to live more simply and cheaply - making soups rather than nipping in to supermarket for expensive ready meals, and downsizing our home.  And after a couple of years I was able to do some part time work, and now my OH and I have set up a little business which adds a bit to the bank account.  

    So it's hard to leave work, and lots of emotions to deal with.  But you will have to leave one day so to my mind better now, and then you have a chance of doing new things you'll enjoy later.  Health comes first. 

  • I have just retired on ill health aged 63. If you are less than 60 then any pension may be affected.

    You may have the right fit your company to find suitable alternative employment.

  • Thank so much for all your replies to my post,  they have been a greatcomfort to me., as I live  alone and miss having someone to bounce stuff off. I have been signed off until June  so I have some time to think this through.  Thanks again to you all x

  • Hi kazbah

    I'm pleased to see you've had some good replies on here with people's personal experiences. I thought the following information on the Pensions Advisory Service website might be helpful as well:

    Kind regards


    (NRAS Helpline)

  • I can truly say I understand  how you feel.  I was forced  into early retirement  due to RA as well.  It was not something  I did not want to do but decided  it was best for me mentally  and physically.   I strongly  suggest do not add more stress in your life by worring because  stress only keep you flared up as well.  I pray a lot and know that God will help me work it all out.  Be blessed. 

  • Having similar experience. In bad flare since Dec last year. Have finished work. Am 53. Was a huge decision! Been a nurse for 34 years. No one can predict a flare even if controlled by medication. Have applied for PIP which is like under 65 DLA. Don't know if I will get it, but we feel almost unemployable as we need long periods of time off due to unpredicted flare attacks. I feel for you, and understand you dilemma. It is tough emotionally and financially. The illness will be with us for life. I feel HR and employers need to understand that there is much more to RA than painful joints. Hope you make the right decision for you. Good luck. Xx

  • Hi

    I can fully understand how you are all feeling at the moment as I have went through exactly what you are  feeling,, except I was only 30 years old & it was either take Medical Retirement & or if did go back to work & was of work sick even 1 day then I would be sacked & receive no early retirement pension. I was advised by my Union rep to take early medical retirement. I had really no option but to take it, as I had just been diagnosed with Pleurisy & I had no idea of when I would be fit or if I ever be able to return to work. I had been on probation for 5 years which was actually illegal, I was  working at the Inland a Revenue & had been under so much pressure at not daring to go on sick leave even when I was having a serious lupus flair until I was admitted to hospital. I was in for 7 weeks, but I was unable to use either of my hands to feed my self or even scratch my face & I still can't use either of my hands very well & it is now 20 years past, so I suppose medical retirement was the best way for me, however I would have liked the option to eventually go back to work part time. I have had to rely on Incapacity benefits to ESA & now they are charging the benefits again & disabled people are looked down on as if we have never worked & now the retirement age is constantly changing & so early retirement is quite risky. Talk to your Union rep & Personnel about your options & whether you will be entitled to benefits should you need to claim them, good luck whatever you all decide to do.

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