If you have enough service to qualify for a pension and you become permanently disabled for the performance of the duties of your role, you may be considered at any age for an ill-health pension.
Before deciding to make such an award, the FRA will seek the opinion of an independent qualified medical practitioner (IQMP).
There are 2 tiers of ill-health award – lower tier and higher tier.
The lower tier award provides a lower tier ill-health pension only; a higher tier award provides a lower tier ill-health pension plus a higher tier ill-health pension. The award made will depend upon your length of service and the extent of the disablement which causes you to retire.
If you are permanently disabled for the performance of the duties of your role, you would be entitled to a lower tier ill-health pension upon retirement, i.e. a lower tier ill-health award.
If you have at least 5 years’ qualifying service, are permanently disabled for the performance of the duties of your role and your disablement also means that you are not capable of undertaking regular employment, you would also be entitled to a higher tier ill-health pension, i.e. a higher tier ill-health award.
“Regular employment” in this context means employment for at least 30 hours a week on average over a period of not less than 12 consecutive months beginning with the date on which the question of your disablement arises for decision.
How a lower tier pension is worked out
For a special firefighter member, the lower tier ill-health pension would be worked out on similar principles to those used in the assessment of a normal pension age or deferred pension. It is based on the formula:
1/45 x pensionable service x final pensionable pay (reference pay, i.e. the pay that would be paid to a whole-time regular firefighter employed in a similar role and with similar qualifying service).
For example, if you have been credited with 4 years' service and retire on the grounds of lower tier ill-health with final pensionable pay of £30,000, you would receive an immediate lower tier pension of –
4/45 x £31,767 = £2,823.73 a year
How a higher tier pension is worked out
A higher tier award includes a lower-tier ill-health pension as shown above plus a higher tier ill-health pension. Working out the higher tier pension is a bit more complicated. It is based on a proportion of notional service to age 55, i.e. the service you would not be able to achieve because of the ill-health retirement.
The formula for assessing a higher tier ill-health pension for special firefighter members is:
(2% x pensionable service) x prospective pensionable service to age 55 x final pensionable pay/45
The notional service used for the assessment is the pensionable service that the firefighter would have accrued from the date of ill-health retirement until normal retirement age if they had continued to be a contributing member of the scheme as a whole-time regular firefighter. Again, reference pay would be used instead of final pensionable pay.
For example, you are a retained firefighter who had been a member of the scheme for 16 calendar years with 4 years of pensionable service credited up to the date of leaving and – if you had been a whole-time regular firefighter – you would have completed a further 12 years' pensionable service by normal retirement age with reference pay of £31,767. The higher tier ill-health pension would be worked out as -
(2% x 4) x (4/16 x 12) x £31,767/45 = £169.42 a year
This would be added to your lower tier ill-health pension to form the higher tier ill-health award.
Part of a lower tier pension (but not a higher tier ill-health pension) can be converted to provide a lump sum – see the how much lump sum can I take? page for details.
If you have been receiving an ill-health pension for less than ten years and have not reached State Pension age your FRA must review your health to check that you are still entitled to the pension. Your FRA chooses how often to do these checks.
Your FRA will consider, with the help of a medical opinion, whether you have recovered enough to be able to carry out any duty relating to the role you were retired on health grounds from.
If a higher tier ill-health pension is in payment your FRA must also consider if you have become fit enough to undertake any regular employment.
If a lower tier ill-health benefit has been awarded and your condition has improved enough that you can return to your role as a firefighter then the pension will be stopped if you are offered a role.
If the offer of employment is accepted the ill-health pension will be stopped but the service it was based on will count towards future pension benefits. If you refuse the job offered the ill-health pension will be stopped and the service it was based on would count towards a deferred pension payable at age 60.
If a higher tier ill-health benefit has been awarded and you are considered fit to return to your former firefighter role the same rules as above would apply (but service counting towards further pension entitlement would not include ill-health enhancement).
If you are considered fit for regular employment but not for your former role as a firefighter, the higher tier pension would cease and the lower tier pension would continue in payment on its own.
Deferred pensions put into payment early because of ill-health must also be reviewed. If you are found to be fit for regular employment, payment is suspended until age 60.