Obtaining ill - health retirement

Guidance & Advice

Personal advice from Peter Dunnett, Secretary of the Bury St Edmunds & District NUT Association


In situations where continued ill-health problems are causing distress or prolonged and frequent absence from work ill-health retirement may be an option that must be considered or may indeed, be recommended by a doctor.

Any application for the grant of ill health retirement must be submitted to Teachers’ Pensions, based in Darlington, who will consider your case and the supporting medical evidence. You need to show that you are ‘permanently unfit to continue teaching’. In other words, you are not going to be fit to return to your current post within the foreseeable future. A decision will then be made approving or rejecting your application. The final decision rests with Teachers’ Pensions based on the case you have presented, and they will wish to satisfy themselves beyond all reasonable doubt, that you are permanently unfit to continue teaching. Appeals measures are in place should an application be unsuccessful, but additional new evidence would be required, to support any appeal.

Seek Help

It’s vitally important that you seek the advice and guidance of the professional assistants based at Regional Office in Newmarket, before embarking on an application for ill-health retirement. They have dealt with many other cases; yours will not be the first. They can explain and advise on the procedures to be followed, make the necessary checks on your exact length of service and provide you with a calculation of the pension and lump sum amounts you would receive. This is undertaken in the strictest confidence, personal details and information relating to you, remain private. The union can also advise you regarding any additional compensation that might payable, if you are forced to seek ill-health retirement due to an "industrial" injury, eg. an accident at work or assault by a pupil. For an approximate indication as to your pension and lump sum see the later section, Your Pension - A Rough Guide and contact the Teachers Pension Agency for a free booklet entitled "Your Pension. A Guide to the Teachers pensions Scheme" which contains more detailed information.

Remember for an accurate calculation of your pension benefits based on your individual circumstances contact N.U.T. Regional Office in Newmarket. Contact details appear at the end of this guide. Do discuss matters with your spouse, partner another member of the family or a trusted friend. Depending upon the nature and seriousness of your complaint you may need to rely on someone to help you through a difficult time, someone you can talk with and who will help with any form filling or communicating with others if you feel unable to do so yourself. Remember you are not the first, or only person, to experience such problems and be faced with ill health retirement. Many others, perhaps more than you think, have come through a similar situation and gone on to lead a full and rewarding life.

Build Your Case

It is very important that you build the strongest case you can, supported by all available medical evidence, before making an application. Whilst the support of your own G.P. is a basic necessity, further medical reports from such people as Occupational Health doctors (used by the LEA to assess employees’ health), hospital specialists, particularly consultants, in charge of your treatment can provide valuable medical evidence in support of your application. The words " permanently unfit to teach" should ideally appear within such reports.

Whilst an application can be submitted with only a report from your G.P. it is far less likely to succeed than if you have favourable supporting reports from other recognised medical sources. Ill health retirement is not granted lightly, and your application must show good reason why you should be deemed permanently unfit to teach. Reports from private practitioners e.g. private counsellors or doctors are usually acceptable, provided that the practitioner holds nationally recognised qualifications.

What Forms Do I Need?

The appropriate Ill Health Application forms PEN18 & PEN20 can be obtained from the Personnel Section of your Area Education Office or from Teachers Pensions. Form 18 Part A requires you to complete some basic information about yourself and family before returning it to the LEA who must also complete Part B before forwarding it on your behalf to Teachers Pensions.

Form 20 again requires you to complete some basic information before presenting it to your GP who must then add the medical details relating to your case along with his / her supporting signature. Form 20 accompanied by hospital and consultant’s reports must then be forwarded to Teachers’ Pensions in Darlington. Experience shows that you must not rely on your surgery to send Form 20 and/or other reports, on your behalf. Some practice doctors may charge a fee for completing the form before releasing it, whilst some surgeries maintain a policy whereby it is the responsibility of the patient to collect and despatch the form and any reports. Check surgery procedures or forms could sit in a reception area pigeonhole, awaiting collection, for many weeks.

Reports from Occupational Health doctors in support of your ill-health retirement will more than likely be sent directly to Teachers’ Pensions. Once again check what the procedure will be. You can request your own copy of a report but it is at the doctor’s discretion as to whether (s)he supplies it. If you can, it’s a good idea to keep your own photocopied record of reports and correspondence not only as an aide mémoire but in case any paperwork goes astray. A diary of events would be an alternative.

Further Medical Examination(s)

Even if you have supplied various medical reports with your application, you may be asked to attend yet another medical examination with a doctor or consultant nominated by Teachers’ Pensions. This may be to provide some ‘independent’ confirmation of your condition or to provide that extra piece of evidence that Teachers’ Pensions require, before making a final decision. Whilst no one would pretend that undergoing a series of medical examinations is always pleasant, they are a necessary part of the procedures. An additional medical examination may, however, not be required, dependent upon the nature of the medical condition or its severity.

Be Realistic

You must try to take a realistic approach to all these matters. The ill-health retirement process, from beginning to end, can be a prolonged process, not least because examinations and the subsequent submission of medical reports can take some time to arrange and submit. However, if your illness is very severe or even life threatening, then the process could well be shorter.

If your condition is so serious that life expectancy is less than one year, contact the Union for advice on commutation of pension.

If you, have already experienced absence(s) from school for sometime because of a medical condition, and are in receipt of medical treatment from your G.P. or a hospital this may well count towards the time leading up to an application for ill-health retirement. The actual submission of an application and a consequent decision however, may still be some months away.

Teachers’ Pensions will also need to satisfy themselves that you are "permanently unfit to teach". If they believe, having examined the evidence, that there is a more than reasonable chance of recovery from your illness or condition, which will have no further effect on your teaching capability, your application may well be refused. However, do not allow this possible outcome to dissuade you from considering ill-health retirement - you are not a doctor. Discuss the situation with your G.P. who will be aware of your medical record and current condition, and can better assess your chances of making a full and permanent recovery. Whilst recovery from a condition may be achieved following appropriate treatment, it could leave you with a permanent weakness or greatly increased susceptibility to further bouts of similar illness, once back in a school situation. Such possibilities could therefore deem you "permanently unfit to teach". Once your application has been submitted, try not to worry about the outcome. A decision to either award a pension, turn down your application or request a further medical check is usually forthcoming within a month of the receipt of your application papers.

If you feel that you cannot return to teaching, despite the decision of Teachers’ Pensions, you should contact the Union to discuss the options. These include requesting reasonable adaptations to your work because your condition amounts to a disability, putting in a second retirement application or appealing against the first decision.

Money Matters

During a period of absence up to six months in length you will normally remain on full salary (but this depends on how long you have been teaching). This is particularly important if your absence is likely to be of long duration. It includes an element of Statutory Sick Pay which is itemised on your pay slip as "SSP". If absence continues unbroken, this is followed by a further six months of half salary, (provided you have full sick pay entitlement), the SSP element having stopped. At the beginning of this further six months you are able to submit a claim to the DSS for Incapacity Benefit which can add to your monthly income and may well be a valuable benefit, especially if you have a family to support. Benefit level will depend upon your own particular personal circumstances.

Claiming Incapacity Benefit requires you to complete and submit the necessary DSS form (SSP1) which is included in a Claim Pack for Incapacity Benefit. This pack should be sent to you by the LEA at the end of your six months full pay period, but can also be obtained from your nearest DSS office. If you are granted Incapacity Benefit you will need to submit regular medical certificates from your GP attesting to your continued ill health and absence from work, and you may be required to attend a medical interview / check with a doctor at the Benefits Agency office dealing with your claim. This is normal practice. Benefit can be paid weekly or monthly directly into your account at a bank or building society.

Benefit can continue to be paid after the award grant of an ill-health pension, although it will be subject to review. Subsequent employment following the grant of your pension will usually cause benefit to cease unless the job pays no more than an amount determined by Teachers' Pensions and is deemed by your GP to be of "therapeutic value". If for whatever reason, your monthly income still results in hardship, you may be eligible for other State Benefits or reduced Council Tax payments. In these circumstances it is wise to seek help and information from your nearest Benefits office, Citizens Advice, or local council. If you are paying a mortgage it may well be possible to renegotiate repayment terms with your building society.

The Teachers Support Network also exists to help teachers in difficult situations and can be approached for financial assistance. If you need TS|N assistance please contact your local association's TSN Secretary who will be able to help and advise you further.

Contact with School

Whilst you are off sick expect contact with your school, but not necessarily from the Head. Besides wishing to enquire as to your well being, the school or colleagues may well ask as to the progress of any application for ill health retirement. There should however be no pressure either to resign, apply for early retirement before you are ready or to ‘hurry matters along‘. It iss your health and future that must be considered as the priority. If you do not want any contact, for whatever reason (e.g. doctor’s orders), it is up to you to tell the school, preferably in writing. It would be courteous, in such circumstances, to keep your school informed of significant events as they happen.

After Retirement is granted

You will be notified in writing of the grant of ill-health retirement as will the LEA. Termination of employment will follow at the earliest mutually agreed date. Your pension will be paid monthly into your bank or building society account and is subject to income tax which is deducted at source. You will also find that the tax office dealing with your affairs will change although your local office will still be able to assist with general enquiries. National Insurance is not deducted from your pension but will be payable on any subsequent employment. As a result there may be a gap in payments which could lead to reduced statutory pension payments in due course. You can, if you wish, make your own NI payments but the best advice is to seek further guidance on these matters from Inland Revenue or a financial adviser.

You will also receive a lump sum, based on length of service and salary, which will be paid into your bank or building society account. Once again, it is eminently advisable to seek the advice of a financial consultant before deciding what you wish to do with what could be a sizeable sum of money. The N.U.T. cannot advise you directly on personal investments or finance but has close links with companies such as those in the Teachers Assurance Group, who can offer appropriate guidance and advice.

Working After Ill-Health Retirement

By taking early retirement on health grounds you will not be able to teach at all thereafter, even on supply. If you do, pension payments will stop and may not resume until you reach 60 years of age. Early retirement does not however prevent you from seeking some suitable, alternative employment. "Permanently unfit to teach" does not mean permanently unfit to work at all. When you are well enough to do so, you can take on some appropriate work

Experience, however, reveals that Pension Agency guidance on employment after retirement is somewhat vague and not necessarily helpful although one basic criteria is that subsequent employment must not involve educational contact with children and young people. Apart from this, there are no lists of jobs that you can or cannot do, although employment that involves working in similar conditions to those which possibly brought your illness e.g., high levels of stress or pressure, or earnings that match or exceed your previous teaching salary, may cause the TPA to review your pension payment or stop it completely until you are 60 years old. Some thought must therefore be exercised when applying for further work. If you have a specific job in mind, it is possible to contact the TPA for an opinion, but it will take up to15 working days (i.e.. 3 weeks) to receive a reply which may leave you none the wiser!

Ill-health early retirement will bring about a different financial scenario from that which you have been used to, particularly if you have been the main breadwinner. Nevertheless your personal health and well being must be the overriding factor when searching for any new job. It would be foolhardy to take on a job that either makes worse an existing condition or causes a relapse. A part-time job might therefore be more appropriate than working a full week - at least to start with. Although pay from any a new job may be somewhat less than you were earning in teaching it may well, coupled with your pension, provide an adequate income. Talk things over with your family, seek the opinion of your G.P. if you are in any doubt about the possible effects of a new job on your condition, and should money problems look likely, seek financial advice earlier rather than later. Do not let problems multiply. At the end of the day, however, matters regarding further employment and personal finances must be left to individual decision.

We hope that these notes will give you some idea of the procedures involved in obtaining ill-health retirement and what you can expect. They are not intended to be exhaustive and individual circumstances differ from case to case. So, make sure you contact the N.U.T. to get the best and fullest advice.

Contact Information

N.U.T. Regional Office

Elm House, Kennett Park, Moulton Road

Kentford, NEWMARKET, CB8 8QU

Tel : 01638 664538 (Office hours)

Ask to speak with one of the Professional Assistants.

Suffolk N.U.T. County Secretary : Martin Goold

1 Gainsborough Road, Bury St. Edmunds, IP33 3RX

Tel & Fax: 01284 763980 E Mail: martingoold@suffolknut.org.uk


Suffolk N.U.T. Association Secretaries

Bury St Edmunds Linda Rutter Tel: 01638 605205
Brompton House, Black Bear Lane, NEWMARKET, CB8 0JT


Sudbury Graham White Tel: 01206 263545   Mobile: 07786 796006
21 Laburnum Way, Nayland, COLCHESTER, CO6 4LG
Ipswich Margaret Bulaitis Tel: 01473 250160          Mobile 07884 205458
20 Corder Road, IPSWICH, IP4 2XD
S.E. Suffolk Michael Sharman  
Tel 01394 272745
130 Chelsworth Road, FELIXSTOWE, IP11 8UJ
Lowestoft Peter Byatt Tel: 01502 568115  Mobile: 07979 841475
15 Grayson Drive, Pakefield, LOWESTOFT, NR33 7BA
Waveney & Yoxford Paul Widdowson 01986 872114 
69 Dukes Drive, Halesworth, IP19 8DR


Divisional H&S AdviserL Alan Wright.  Email Alan on alanoftharpway@yahoo.co.uk

Teachers' Pensions

Mowden Hall, Darlington, DL3 9EE

Tel: 01325 745745


For all Suffolk Pay and pension enquiries of Suffolk LA, contact CSD: 08456 053000

Suffolk Area Education Offices

Western Area : New Shire Hall, Bury St.Edmunds, IP33 1RX Tel: 01284 352000

Southern Area : St Edmund House, Rope Walk, Ipswich  Tel: 01473 583000

Northern Area :Adrian House, Alexandra Road, Lowestoft, NR32 1BH Tel: 01502 405000