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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I have recently asked my former employer, Leics County Council

Resolved Question:

I have recently asked my former employer, Leics County Council whether I can take my pension early as I have been diagnosed with progressive MS. I had to have an interview with their retained Occ Health provider. His opinion was that as I could work, I could not.

I never contested that I could work, but that it could only be for 3 days per week, so effectively the pension would support my reduced income.

I am male, over 57 years old and a Chartered Building Surveyor.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Have you checked your pension policy to see in what circumstances you may be able to draw it early?

JACUSTOMER-Customer- :

Yes. I also established that Occ Health (retained by a Local Auth) cannot be the final arbiter in such cases. I have a fulsome letter from a Neurologist at Leics Gen Hospital which gives my diagnosis. I have never denied my ability to work, just the duration of the working week. It seemed that this case was pre-ordained as I haven't worked for Leicestershire County Council since my redundancy in July 2011, and currently work for an agency in Manchester.

Ben Jones :

When it comes to the early drawing of pensions, this is mainly governed by the specific policy you have. Each policy has its own rules and some schemes will allow the early drawing in certain circumstances, others will not – it is all about checking the specific rules that govern your pension to see what is allowed and in what circumstances.


 


If your policy specifically allows you to take out your pension early in the circumstances you have in your case, but the scheme provider is not allowing you to draw it early, then you have a couple of options: one is to follow any formal complaints procedure that the scheme may have in place where this would be considered internally by them. If you follow the full procedure and at the end there is still no satisfactory outcome, you can take your case to the Pensions Ombudsman, an independent body that oversees the conduct of pensions administrators and who can make a binding decision on them. Details of how to do this can be found here:


 


http://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/Complaints/How_to_make_a_complaint/index.aspx


 


After that the final option is to go to court, although that is a last resort.


 


Hope this clarifies your position?

Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this? Thanks

JACUSTOMER-Customer- :

Local Government Pensions do allow for early release, otherwise why would they ask me to attend Occ Health? I would also be able to take my pension at the age of 60 (subject to actuarial reduction). My pension statements have always given two levels of pension: at 60 and at Statutory Retirement Age. Nonetheless, I had not thought of the Ombudsman, but considered other routes more pertaining to the Equalities Act and the HRA. I have been told that this particular Occ Health firm was chosen because they would override GP's decisions, but that of course, is unsubstantiated hearsay. They would have been unwise to have included that in any contract, because of its potential litigious consequences. The FIA could be another route.

Ben Jones :

They may indeed allow for early release but it is not just that, there would be conditions you need to meet to make that happen and also the issue may lie with the final decision resting with the pensions provider, in a sense that it could still be up top them to decide whether to grant that or not - in any event these options should all be mentioned in the policy itself. Still, the Ombudsman is the best option if you cannot resolve this directly with the provider, as t the FIA, not sure who you mean, do you perhaps mean the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)?

JACUSTOMER-Customer- :

No. The Freedom of Information Act, though I suppose that they could hide behind the "commercial confidentiality" part. It would not surprise me to learn that their engagement was results based: resulting in savings to the authority. I am saddened to have developed a great degree of cynicism about this Council. The terms of the pension are about to be examined by my Financial Adviser. I am sorry to have used an abbreviation of which you were unfamiliar.

Ben Jones :

I see, to be honest it is unlikely that would help you here and in any event our rights will be governed by the 'open' policy wording, not anything you would normally rely on to get through the FIA. And no need to apologise, I am obviously aware of the FIA but wasn't sure why it would have been sued in this context so was just clarifying to see if you meant something else.

Happy to clarify anything else if needed?

Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this? Just need to know whether to keep this open or to close it, Thanks

JACUSTOMER-Customer- :

Love to rate your response but I can't! The machine won't allow me!

Ben Jones :

Ah sorry it' a bug we sometimes get, you can just type it out on here instead, thanks

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46186
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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