Medical retirement

When an employee is no longer able to do their job due to illness or injury, it can be a challenging time for both employees and employers.

In these situations, employees often feel vulnerable and stressed. They might be worried about placing stress on other staff and be concerned about what will happen to them financially if they lose their job.

Similarly, their employer may feel pressure about how long they’re going to keep the job open and how they’ll run their organisation. They might also worry about how to treat the staff member with dignity and manage the workload while they go through any process.

The law does not require an employer to keep an employee in employment if they are unable to fulfil their role, due to illness or injury, or not able to do their work. The question is how long an employer should keep the role open for the employee to return to.

It is helpful to note the difference between ‘Medical Retirement’ and ‘Dismissal for Medical Incapacity’. Medical retirement must be agreed to by both the employer and the employee in writing. This is a far more dignified process for both parties and ensures that the employer has some certainty and can carry out their business continuity planning. It is positive for the employee as they can have the medical retirement as the reasoning on their record of service and may receive compensation for their choice to retire.  Medical retirement provisions may be in an employment agreement or workplace policy, but even if they’re not, the employer and employee can still agree to medical retirement (the agreement should be in writing).

We suggest talking to your employer and reviewing the terms of your employment agreement.

Download our Guide to Medical Retirement

Watch our video for advice on leaving employment

Naomi McRae is an HR specialist at PwC New Zealand and a blood cancer survivor.