One in eight people are being forced out of the labour market due to ill health before state pension age, according to new research published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The TUC has warned hundreds of thousands of older workers are being “consigned to poverty” due to ill health.
The report, ‘Extending working lives: how to support older workers’, found 534,876 workers aged 60 to 65 had to leave the workplace for medical reasons.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the TUC, said: “People should be able to retire in dignity with a decent pension when the time is right. But many older workers are being forced to stop work earlier due to ill health. They must not be consigned to years of poverty.
“The government should stop plans for further rises in the pension age and focus on improving support for people who are too ill to work. And tackle the health inequalities that are causing it. With healthy life expectancy falling for women in poorer areas ministers need to reverse this alarming trend – not make them wait even longer for their pension.”
The 16-page report also revealed an income and class divide. People who left the labour market early while working in low-income jobs – such as cleaning, care and manual labour – were six times more likely to quit due to medical reasons than those in higher-paid jobs.
The analysis also showed clear regional disparities. In the South West and the West Midlands, one in 12 people aged 60 to 66 left work due to long-term sickness or disability.
But this rose to one in seven in Yorkshire and the Humber and Wales, one in six the North East and one in five in Northern Ireland.
Nick Moules, Wren Sterling’s Head of Marketing added: “This report is unfortunately, confirming what most of us already know – workers are under-insured and the sad part about this research is those least likely to have the financial cushion are those most likely to be impacted through ill health. This may become even more prevalent in the gig economy where people are effectively self-employed so they don’t even have an employer to turn to for workplace schemes that may include disability protection.
“Frances O’Grady isn’t wrong in calling for the government to improve support for people who are too ill to work, but this won’t happen overnight. The habits of the working population are changing; many different jobs, self-employment, side hustles, falling union memberships, all against a background of significant state expenditure on tackling Covid-19. Particularly for people in more manual or physical roles, the prudent thing to do is to arrange separate cover through an independent financial adviser.”