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 incapable of performing any of the duties of the role in which you were last employed, because of incapacity of mind or body which will continue until normal pension age (60), 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 entitled to a lower tier ill-health pension, and you are also incapable of undertaking regular employment because of incapacity of mind or body which will continue until normal pension age, 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
The annual rate of a lower tier ill-health pension is worked out in the same way as an age retirement pension. It is the amount of career average pension that you have built up in your account (earned pension), plus any added pension that you have bought. There would be no reduction for early retirement.
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.
For example, suppose you:
- have an earned pension of £10,000 before commutation, £8,000 after commutation
- have an added pension of £1,000 before commutation, £800 after commutation
If you retire with a lower tier ill-health pension, you would be entitled to:
the earned pension after commutation + the added pension after commutation
i.e. £8,000 + £800 = £8,800 a year
How a higher tier pension is worked out
The annual rate of a higher tier ill-health pension is calculated as 2% of the earned pension (before any reduction for commutation) multiplied by your notional service to age 60, i.e. the service you would not be able to achieve because of the ill-health retirement.
Using the example above, suppose you:
- have a period of 20 years between your last day of service and reaching age 60
If you retire with a higher tier ill-health pension, you would be entitled to:
2% x the earned pension before commutation x 20
i.e. 2% x £10,000 x 20 = 4,000 a year
This would be paid in addition to your lower tier pension of £8,800 a year.
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 state pension age.
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 state pension age.
If you have previous service in FPS 1992 or FPS 2006 and qualify for ill-health retirement under the rules of FPS 2015, the pension you receive will include an "equivalent amount" which is the ill-health pension that you would have been entitled to from your earlier scheme based on the service that you had built up before moving to the FPS 2015.