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Govt 'failing' to take account of sick workers in pension age increase plan

Govt 'failing' to take account of sick workers in pension age increase plan

Unite the union has said the government is not recording the amount of workers being forced to leave their jobs early due to ill health and injury, as it prepares to increase the state pension age.

A Freedom of Information request by Unite to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asked the government for the records of workers who are being forced to, or choosing to leave their profession early.

However, the DWP replied: “Following a search of our paper and electronic records, we have established that the information you requested is not held by this department.”

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Last year in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Budget, it was announced that a review of the state pension age would be published in early 2023.

The review, which was announced in December 2021, will look at whether the rules around pensionable age are appropriate, based on the latest life expectancy data and other evidence.

Life expectancy in the UK has been falling, which has led to some to call for a rethink in planned state pension age increases.

At present it is not possible to receive the state pension before the state pension age, if a person is in ill health.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This revelation will send a shudder through the UK workforce. The message being given out by the government is don’t get sick or injured.

“Too many workers in highly physically demanding jobs are already being forced out of work before the state pension age. Extending the date when workers become eligible for their pension will make the situation even worse.

“Even more workers will find themselves in a cruel limbo world where they are too sick to work but too young to receive their pension.”

Unite said the lack of research will be “particularly alarming” to workers in sectors of the economy including construction, lorry driving and healthcare where due to the nature of their work they are frequently forced to leave the industry prior to the existing state retirement age, due to ill health and injury.

The state pension age is currently 66 and two further increases are already set out in legislation, including a gradual rise to 67 for those born on or after April 1960; and a gradual rise to 68 between 2044 and 2046 for those born on or after April 1977.

Unite said it is thought the review could bring these dates forward and/or increase the state pension age beyond 68 for younger workers.

But a DWP spokesperson told FTAdviser that no decision has been taken on changes to the state pension age.

“The government is required by law to regularly review the state pension age and the second state pension age review is currently considering, based on a wide range of evidence including latest life expectancy data and two independent reports, whether the rules around state pension age remain appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

“The review will be published early this year.

“As set out at the Autumn Statement, the Department for Work and Pensions will separately be thoroughly reviewing workforce participation to understand what action should be taken on increased economic inactivity.”