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Around one in eight (12%) men and women are forced to stop working before state pension age due to ill-health or disability, according to TUC research published today (Monday).

Around one in eight (12%) men and women are forced to stop working before state pension age due to ill-health or disability, according to TUC research published today (Monday).

The TUC report – Postponing the pension: are we all working longer? – finds that nearly half a million (436,000) workers who are within five years of state pension age have had to leave the workplace for medical reasons.

The analysis also reveals a stark North-South divide. In the South West of England, sickness and disability is cited by just 1 in 13 of those who have left work in the run-up to state pension age, followed by 1 in 11 in the South East and in the East of England.

But this rises to 1 in 7 in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, the North West, Wales and Scotland and 1 in 4 in Northern Ireland, reflecting wider health inequalities across the regions and nations of the UK.

The report also reveals that those who have worked in the lowest paid jobs – including cleaners, carers, those working in the leisure industry and those doing heavy manual jobs – are twice as likely to stop working before retirement age due to sickness and disability than managers or professionals.

Workers aged over 50 now make up one in three (30%) of the workforce – up from less than one in four (24%) in 2000. The report finds that nearly half (49%) of 60 to 64 year olds stopped working before their official retirement age.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Raising the state pension age is an easy target for chancellors of the exchequer wanting to make stealth cuts. But these figures show that we must hold off on any further rises in the pension age until we have worked out how to support the 1 in 8 workers who are too ill to work before they even get to state pension age.

“People should be able to retire in dignity with a decent pension when the time is right. Older workers have a crucial role to play in the labour market but we can’t expect the sick to wait longer to get a pension when they may need financial support more than ever.”


- Postponing the Pension: are we all working longer? is available at

- The TUC report has been submitted to the Independent Review of State Pension Age led by John Cridland which will consider what will happen to the state pension after 2028.

- Figures from ONS labour force survey Q4 2015 (latest data available at the time of analysis)


% of those within 5 years of state pension age who  have left employment due to sickness and disability

East of England


East Midlands


West Midlands




South East


South West


North East


North West


Yorkshire and the Humber






Northern Ireland


National average


Raising the state pension age is too simplistic an approach to increasing the number of people working in later life. The TUC suggests instead:

  • A right to flexible working from day one in a job. Allowing all staff to request flexible working from day one (you currently need to have been in post for 26 weeks) would allow workers scope to develop a working pattern that suits both their needs and their employers.
  • A right to retraining for older workers should be introduced, with paid time off work to learn new skills. Subsidies could encourage employers to welcome this.
  • Giving workers statutory entitlement to carers leave. Women are less likely than men to be economically active by the time they reach 50 as the burden of caring for younger or older relatives falls on women.
  • Expanding auto-enrolment into the pensions system. This has brought an additional six million people in the workplace pensions system but millions, most of them women, miss out on employer contributions because they earn less than the earnings trigger.
  • Giving workers a right to a mid-life career review. An increased focus on health issues in the reviews, such as advice about free NHS health-checks for 40-74 years olds, could help workers identify current and potential health problems and work with employers on managing them.

- All TUC press releases can be found at

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