Where an employee is absent from work for an extended period due to ill health, and his pension scheme contains provisions entitling him to an ill health pension on grounds of permanent incapacity, an employer will generally be expected to give consideration to ill health retirement before dismissing him for incapacity. This principle derives from the recent case of First West Yorkshire Ltd v Haigh, and would seem to apply irrespective of whether or not an employer’s sickness policy expressly provides that it will consider ill health retirement.

A further interesting aspect of the case was that the employee was given a choice between taking further sick pay until his normal retirement date and then retiring on his normal pension (but with no right to apply for an enhanced ill-health pension), or being dismissed. The judge in the case held that it was unreasonable to force the employee to make such a choice, and that the employer was clearly trying to avoid the expense of providing enhanced ill-health retirement despite the provisions of its own sickness policy.