Around one in eight (12%) UK workers are forced to stop working before the state pension age due to ill-health or disability.
A report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) revealed that 436,000 workers who are within 5 years of the state pension age have left their workplace for medical reasons.
Earlier this year it was announced that the state pension age will be raised to 66 for both men and women by 2020. For many years it had been 65 for men and 60 for women.
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 pensions age until we have worked out how to support the one in eight workers who are too ill to work.”
The analysis revealed a north-south divide. In the south west sickness and disability was cited in one in 13 cases of early retirement. This figure rose to one in seven in Yorkshire and Humber and Scotland, and one in four in Northern Ireland.
Workers in lower paid jobs such as cleaners and carers were almost twice as likely to retire early for medical reasons as professionals and managers.
Workers over the age of 50 now make 30% of the workforce, up from 24% in 2000. The report also found that 49% of workers retired between the ages of 60 and 64.
O’Grady added: “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.”