If you have to leave work before your Normal Pension Age (NPA) because of your health, you can apply for ill-health retirement.

How do I qualify for ill-health retirement?

You have to satisfy the following two criteria:

  • You must have enough qualifying service to be eligible for a pension.
    This means that you have worked for an employer that offers membership of the Civil Service pension arrangements, and been a member for at least two years.
  • Your health must, in the opinion of the Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA), permanently prevent you from being able to do your current job or any other similar role.

    Permanent means until you reach your predicted State Pension age (SPA). The SMA will take into account any planned changes to SPA when making this decision.

How do I apply for ill-health retirement?

You should speak to your employer, usually your manager or HR department.

Both you and your employer will need to complete sections of the ill-health retirement application form. The form will ask for your details and your permission for the Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA) to contact your doctor and any other specialists who have been involved in your care.

Your employer will send the application to the SMA, with information about your job, and any details they hold about your health, including your sickness record.

All the records that pass between your employer, your doctors, and the SMA are treated in the strictest confidence.

Who is the Scheme Medical Adviser (SMA)?

The SMA is a third party organisation that is appointed by the Scheme Manager to provide independent medical advice.

After I have completed my application, what happens next?

You may be invited for an assessment by the SMA or asked to provide more details about your health.

If you qualify for an ill-health pension, there are two tiers of benefits that could be payable depending on your ability to work.

Lower tier: Payable if you are permanently incapable of doing your own job or a similar role.

Upper tier: Payable if you are permanently incapable of working in any kind of employment.

If you have already partially retired you can only qualify for a lower tier ill-health pension (even if you meet the upper tier criteria).

If you have already reached your NPA you will not be eligible for ill-health retirement terms.

The SMA may find that your health does not keep you from working, and may turn down your application.

Can I appeal against the SMA’s decision?

Yes, you can appeal against a decision not to grant you ill-health retirement, or a decision to only give you a lower tier pension.

There are time limits if you want to appeal, and you will need some new medical evidence to support your case.

Details of how to appeal, and the time limits you have to meet, will be supplied with your decision letter from the medical advisers, and you can ask your employer for information about the appeal process.

What happens if ill-health retirement is granted?

The SMA will send a certificate to your employer confirming that you meet the criteria for ill-health retirement, and which of the two levels you qualify for.

Your employer will then set your retirement date, including any period of notice, and inform the scheme Administrator who will give you details of your pension.

What will my pension be?

If you qualify for lower tier, your pension will be made up of:

  • the total alpha pension you have built up to date
  • any EPA portions of the pension you have built up
  • any added pension you have bought
  • any alpha pension from benefits you have transferred in from another pension scheme.

All these elements will be paid without any reduction for early payment. However, if you have bought:

  • any added pension by lump sum in the year before you retire; or
  • a transfer in to your pension that happened less than two years before you retire;

your pension may not be paid out immediately but will be preserved instead. You can claim this at a later date, or immediately if you are already over the minimum pension age. This is subject to the usual payment rules, if you claim it early, it will be reduced for early payment.

If you qualify for upper tier, your pension will be made up of:

  • all the lower tier pension


  • an enhancement.

The enhancement is worked out in the following way:

The alpha pension you have built up by your ill-health retirement date is divided by the number of years you were a member of the scheme. This gives us the average amount you added to your alpha pension each year.

This average amount is then multiplied by the number of years remaining from your ill-health retirement to your predicted NPA. If you are employed on a fixed-term appointment / contract, the number of years untill the end of your appointment / contract is used.

This is the enhancement you receive as part of the upper tier pension, on top of the lower tier pension.

What do I have to do to claim this payment?

Once the Scheme Administrator (MyCSP) has been notified of the SMA’s decision, they will send you a quote and claim forms to complete. Your pension cannot be paid until you have returned the claim forms.

Do I get a tax-free lump sum?

Yes. Under current rules you can choose to exchange some of your pension for a tax-free lump sum, subject to limits set by HM Revenue & Customs. The maximum amount of lump sum you can take will be shown on your quote. You can choose to take any amount of lump sum up to this maximum. If you take a lump sum your pension will be reduced.

I was given a provisional pension award by the SMA. What does this mean?

The SMA was unable to decide if your health permanently met the conditions for an ill-health retirement pension, so decided you should have a provisional ill-health retirement instead.

The Scheme Administrator (MyCSP) will then make a provisional award at the tier the SMA decided was most appropriate to your condition at the time you applied. But the SMA will need to review your case at a later date.

The SMA will set a review date that can be up to five years after the original decision.

What happens after a review of my provisional pension?

At a review, the SMA can confirm that their original decision about your condition was correct, or change it.

If the SMA recommends that your pension is reduced (dropping from a higher to lower tier) or removed, you will get three months’ notice before your payments change.

If the SMA recommends an increase to your pension, it will be backdated to the date of the review.

Can I appeal against the SMA’s decision to reduce a provisional pension?

Yes. You can appeal a decision to change a provisional award. There are time limits if you want to appeal, and you will normally need some new medical evidence to support your case.

Is my ill-health retirement pension paid for life?

A lower tier pension will be paid for the rest of your life.

An upper tier pension will be reviewed regularly by the SMA, at least every five years. The reviews stop once you reach your alpha NPA.

If your health improves and you no longer meet the conditions for an upper tier pension, it will be changed to the lower tier. You will get three months’ notice before your payments change.

Ill-health retirement after leaving

There is no ill-health retirement option for members who have left with a preserved pension.

If you want to claim a preserved pension early due to ill-health, you can as long as you are over the minimum pension age. This will be under the usual payment rules, and your pension will include an early payment reduction if it is claimed before your NPA.

If you are terminally ill with a limited life expectancy, of less than 12 months, you can access your benefits as a one-off payment at any age. You should contact the Scheme Administrator (MyCSP) who will guide you through the application process.

Are there special arrangements if I am terminally ill?

If your doctors confirm, and the SMA agrees, that you have a life expectancy of less than 12 months, you can apply to exchange all of your pension benefits for a one-off lump sum. You should contact the Scheme Administrator (MyCSP) who will guide you through the application process.

This is available to active members and those who have left the scheme with a preserved pension.

You must make the request before you receive any pension payments, this means if you are already retired and claiming your pension, you cannot apply to receive this one-off payment.

The payment is five times your annual pension, and if you take it you will not get any further annual pension. The pensions that can be paid to your dependants are unaffected by your choice.

The total amount of pension and lump sum that you get may be higher if you do not opt for these terms. If you are a re-employed pensioner or partially retired, the lump sum will not include any pension that you are already getting.

Ill-health retirement and the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS)

This section only applies to members who were in the PCSPS (classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos) before 01 April 2015, and then moved from that scheme into alpha.

It does not cover every aspect of the scheme; full details are set out in the scheme rules, which are the legal basis of the scheme. You can find copies of the PCSPS scheme rules on the Civil Service Pensions website.

Nothing in this guide can override the scheme rules. Every effort has been made to make this guide as accurate as possible, but in the event of any difference, the rules will apply. This guide is based on the rules current at the time of publication and there is no guarantee that any part of the rules will not change in the future. You should be aware that tax rates and limits are subject to change.

If this section applies to you, please read it carefully to understand what happens to both parts of your pension if you retire on ill-health.

Ill-health retirement when you have banked service from one of the final salary schemes (classic, classic plus, or premium) or banked pension benefits from nuvos follows the same process.

I was in classic / classic plus / premium and have been granted ill-health retirement. What happens to my banked service?

Your pension is worked out at your retirement date.

Depending on what section your PCSPS benefits are in, your pensionable earnings or final pensionable earnings are used with your banked service to work out the PCSPS part of your pension.

I was in nuvos and have been granted ill-health retirement. What happens to my banked benefits?

If you have banked benefits from nuvos, your pension is worked out at your retirement date.

It includes any increases based on prices that were added to your banked benefits since you joined alpha.

How does the PCSPS part of my pension get paid?

You receive a payment equal to the classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos part of your pension with the alpha part.

Like the alpha part, it is not reduced for early payment if you are granted ill-health retirement.

The amount you get is not increased or enhanced in any way, but it will be adjusted in line with prices once it is in payment.

Under alpha regulations, classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos parts of your pension will not be paid when you retire on ill-health.

Members with PCSPS parts to their pension get a payment equal to the value of their classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos pension paid to them.

This payment is replaced automatically by their actual PCSPS pension once they reach the Normal Pension Age of that scheme usually age 60 or age 65.

Your pension will replace the payment you are receiving without you having to take any action.

You only get the lump sum option once (at the date you retire), so you will not get a second lump sum option when you reach the scheme’s Normal Pension Age.

If you have not reached the Normal Pension Age in classic, classic plus, premium, or nuvos you could still choose to transfer out
that part of your pension. But if you do, the payment you are receiving in respect of those benefits will stop, meaning the overall amount of pension that you get will reduce to just the alpha part of your benefits.

14 December 2021
Last updated:
15 December 2023