NT: Why have these proposals been drawn up?
RP: If you raise the normal retirement age to 65, if people have to take ill health retirement there will be extra costs in the system.
People will have to be compensated for loss of pension because they will not be able to work extra years – as a result there will be extra costs in the system.
It needs employers to manage long term sickness absence to make sure that those that go off sick get back to work in there own job, rather than having to take ill health retirement.
NT: Why have you improved long term sick benefits? Surely this is rewarding people who cannot work?
RP: This had to change to ensure compliance with age discrimination legislation.
This will be better for younger workers who may have just joined the scheme but have a long time to go before retirement. We are trying to meet needs of younger workers in these proposals.’
Eventually ill health retirement costs will be paid by employers to take pressure off NHS pensions scheme.
NT: Why are you proposing making employers pay for their own ill health retirement bills instead of the central NHS pensions fund?
RP: At the moment no employers pay for the cost. Certainly there is evidence to suggest that employers are willing to let people take ill health retirement but there is no direct consequence of that.
NT: Why did you bring in the minimum standards for handling long term sick leave?
RP: There are a lot of cases where employees get off sick, but they are not seen regularly, the sick pay runs out and they end up with no prospect of the employer getting them back to work.
[Employers have to ensure] people are being seen, that they get rehabilitation and they get back into work. It is in everybody’s interests.
Interview by Richard Staines