Department for Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 19th March 2015.
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what recent discussions he has had with fire authorities in England and Wales on pension rights for firefighters who fail fitness tests due to illness; and how many of those authorities have indicated to him that they cannot pay those pensions.
I recently met with the National Employers to discuss firefighter fitness issues in England. Where underlying medical reasons have been identified that restrict or prevent an individual from achieving the necessary fitness standards for undertaking their role as a firefighter, the individual should be referred to occupational health, and must receive the necessary support to facilitate a return to operational duties. The fire and rescue authority should also fully explore opportunities to enable the individual to remain in employment, including through reasonable adjustments and appropriate redeployment within the role, where it appears the medical condition prevents a return to operational duties. In those circumstances, where there are no such opportunities or suitable alternative employment is unavailable, then the fire and rescue authority will commence the formal assessment for ill-health retirement by referring the case to the Independent Qualified Medical Practitioner. Where it is determined that a firefighter is permanently unable to continue in their role as a firefighter they would become entitled to the immediate payment of a lower tier ill-health pension. In addition to this, they would also receive a higher tier ill-health enhancement if it was also determined that they could not undertake any regular employment. The definition of ill-health is wide, and includes both physical and mental conditions, including arthritis and post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is important to note that, where a firefighter is deemed eligible for medical retirement, the authority must pay the ill-health pension - there is no discretion.
In the 2015 Firefighters Pension Scheme firefighters will accrue pension more quickly than their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will consequently achieve a higher ill-health pension.
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