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Medical retirement - what you need to know

Rebecca Armstrong2this one.jpgMSer and HR expert Rebecca Armstrong explains the ins and outs of medical retirement

A regular point of discussion on the MS & Work Facebook group is around medical retirement. Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) reach a point where if feels impossible to carry on at work due to their condition and this can lead to a crossroads.

If you find yourself at the point where you feel you can no longer continue at work, retirement might be the next step. The first and most important question to ask yourself is whether it is your current job that has become too much (even with adjustments) or if any kind of work is too much. This is important as medical retirement is a big step and one which symbolises that you will not work again (although some pensions may allow a restricted number of hours). If you feel that it is your current job that is too much you might want to consider looking for another job which is better suited before making the step into retirement.

If, however, even with adjustments, you are unable to work, then retirement is a way to access your pension early.

If you feel this is the next step for you, there are a number of things to look at

  1. Start by speaking to your pension company. They will be able to give you a clear indication of what you will get financially as well as what their criteria is for medical retirement. Many have tiered systems from full retirement where you do not work, to retirement where some work is allowed.
  2. Once you know what your pension will pay, it’s worth doing some research into what additional benefits you might be entitled to over and above that. This might be in the form of Employment and Support Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. These two things will give you a picture of what medical retirement will mean financially to help you plan.
  3. Any form of medical retirement will require the support of your consultant and/or MS nurse, so it is a good idea to discuss it with them. They are typically looking at how you are now and your prognosis for the future. For this reason medical retirement is often associated with the progressive forms of MS however, there are cases where someone with active relapsing remitting MS can also apply for retirement successfully.

Once you have completed these steps and have a clear picture of how the retirement would work for you, the next step is to discuss it with your employer. Once you raise it, you are letting them know you are unlikely to be able to continue work, which is why I always recommend this as the last stage in the process when you are sure. Medical retirement is ultimately a dismissal but it is managed as more of a mutual agreement. It is a big step and alongside this process it is worth considering counselling and other support from the MS-UK helpline.

This was origionally published in New Pathways magazine.  Subscribe to New Pathways