Ill health: case 2

Mrs B went off sick with a back condition.  Over the next few months there were meetings to discuss her future and eight months later, 13 years before she would normally have retired, she was dismissed on medical grounds.

Under the scheme’s rules, if her employer decided that she was permanently unable to carry out her job and had a reduced likelihood of obtaining any gainful employment, she could qualify for a pension.

The regulations also said that her employer had to obtain a certificate from an independent doctor or consultant, appointed by them, before reaching such a decision.

The independent doctor said Mrs B’s condition was relatively mild and normal for her age and that she would expect Mrs B to be able return to the same work within the 13 years before she would have retired. The employer said that she did not qualify for a pension.

Mrs B appealed the decision to the scheme. New independent doctors were asked for their opinion by the scheme at each stage of her appeal.  Neither of them was able to certify that she met the conditions for a pension to be payable.

Mrs B asked her own GP to write in with his opinion, which was that “her chances of returning to work before age 65 are fairly small”.  The pension scheme administrators reviewed the case one more time, but did not agree that a pension was payable.

We did not uphold the complaint.  Our role is to look at whether the scheme rules have been followed and whether the employer and the scheme administrators had reached a reasonable decision taking all of the evidence into account.  We decided that they had.