Employers and employees must work together to manage the implications of having a serious long-term illness like pulmonary hypertension. Here Steph Pollard takes a closer look at the world of work and PH.

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people with disabilities or long term health conditions from discrimination at work.

It replaces previous bits of legislation including the Disability Discrimination Act and requires employers to treat people with a chronic medical condition fairly.

Under the act, employers must, by law, make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure its disabled employees can engage in their work successfully – alongside other workers.

These ‘reasonable adjustments’ may mean things like changes to an employee’s work station, facilities and equipment; revised roles and responsibilities; and the introduction of flexible or part-time working hours to allow time for rest and hospital appointments and so on.

Terms of employment in general, including pay and benefits should not be affected by a person’s disability or long-term illness. The law protects against discrimination of a worker’s prospects for promotion, transfer and training opportunities too. 

Finally, a person with a chronic condition like PH has the same rights as other workers in relation to recruitment and retention – plus the same protection against unfair dismissal or redundancy.

In this feature, three people with PH share their experiences of going back to work after a diagnosis of PH. Their employers have shown due respect to the principles of the Equality Act and there is excellent communication between bosses and employees. We know this is not always the case. And because pulmonary hypertension is a rare, not widely known disease with invisible symptoms that people ‘can’t see’ – it can lead to extra difficulties. In particular, the lengthy period it can take to diagnose the condition can put a great deal of strain on the process as employees may be very ill but they – and their employers – do not know what they are dealing with for a long time.

A person with a chronic condition like PH has the same rights as other workers in relation to recruitment and retention.

Nevertheless, under the act, employers have a duty to follow fair and legal processes and act accordingly.

PHA UK has recently supported one woman with PH who has had a long, hard fight to challenge her dismissal from a large public sector employer. She was reinstated eventually as she proved she had been wrongly dismissed, under the Equality Act. The law had not been adhered to; due care had not been taken and key information had been missed leading to a decision made outside the law. The young woman, who had been very ill leading up to her diagnosis with PH, won her job back and her self-respect, but it was a difficult and challenging time for her on top of coming to terms with her condition.

Did you know? 

Employment and Support Allowance may be available for people who have ‘limited capability for work’ due to sickness or disability. ESA replaces previous benefits including Incapacity Benefit. A person can apply for this when their entitlement to statutory sick pay has run out.  In some cases, people may also claim ESA while doing a small amount of ‘permitted work’ which they can manage; for example less than 16 hours a week earning up to £107.50. To find out more about ESA and other work-related benefits visit www.turn2us.org.uk

Did you know?

Working parents are entitled, by law, to take time off to look after sick children in an emergency. However, there is no legal requirement for the employer to pay employees for this time off, often called ‘compassionate leave’. Some do, some don’t. Check with yours.

Did you know? 

Parents of a child with a long-term health condition like PH are entitled by up to 18 weeks of unpaid ‘parental leave’ a year (as long as they’ve been working for an employer for a year or more). If your child qualifies for Disability Living Allowance, you are entitled to this unpaid leave up until their 18th birthday.