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20.14 Retirements to prevent further injury

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Occasionally, a member may contend that a decision to retire was taken on medical advice, i.e. to pre-empt a future development of an incapacity for work, had he/she remained in the same work environment. A voluntary retirement, however reasonable in terms of halting the progress of a medical condition, nevertheless does not constitute incapacity for work.

In 'Re Cobern and Comcare' the Tribunal said:

18 In my view the evidence that I have referred to clearly establishes that, at the time of his retirement, the applicant was neither incapacitated from engaging in any work at all, nor incapacitated from engaging at work at ASO5 level. He was approaching the point where he would become so incapacitated. It was reasonable, even wise, for him to retire early before his psychiatric condition deteriorated to such an extent that he reached that point. But he was still fit for work at ASO5 level when he retired, and therefore was not then incapacitated for the purposes of the Act. It may be that the Act has operated unfairly in this case, given the prudence of the applicant's decision to retire before irretrievable psychiatric damage occurred, but I have no discretion in this matter.

Naturally, this decision does not effect cases where an actual compensable injury spontaneously deteriorates or is aggravated after retirement, thus causing incapacity. The 'Cobern' case establishes only, that incapacity must be directly caused by an actual injury, and a voluntary cessation of work taken with a view to preventing or limiting future injury, does not of itself constitute incapacity for work.