Work and cystic fibrosis

More people with cystic fibrosis (CF) are in employment than ever before.  We believe that you should be able to live the life you want to live, including your choice of career, but there are some important considerations to take into account when you're looking for a job.

Looking for a job if you have cystic fibrosis

As far as possible, CF should not be allowed to limit your choices. For many jobs, reasonable adjustments could be made to enable you to undertake the role. So when you’re researching and applying for jobs, do think about what the role is likely to entail and what, if any, adjustments might be needed. The following questions might help in reviewing your options:

  • Are there any obvious health and safety issues, for example infection risks or other direct risks to your health?
  • Is the working environment suitable for you and your symptoms? Is there a canteen, staff fridge, rest-room or first aid room? Is the building itself accessible? For example, is there a lift you can use?
  • Are there flexible working arrangements such as home working, flexible hours or even the possibility of having annual leave in hours rather than full days?
  • Do they have a health insurance plan? If you become too ill to work, health insurance may provide you with an income. Having CF doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t qualify; it depends on the company.
  • Does the company have a disability policy, or are they a member of the Business Disability Forum or the Disability Confident scheme.
  • What is the sick leave allowance? Would it be possible for you to have extra (perhaps unpaid) days off if required?

When should you tell an employer you have cystic fibrosis?

The appropriate stage for an employer to ask health questions will often be after a job offer is made, but before you start employment. Talk to your employer/line manager about how CF may affect your work. We have information specifically for employers outlining the basics of CF and how it can affect people with the condition – you can find it at the back of our factsheet. You could use this to help explain how the condition may affect you in the particular work environment you are going to be working in.

It is best to be straightforward (though consider seeking specialist advice if you think questions are inappropriate or unnecessary). If you are not asked about your health, the information you decide to volunteer is a very individual choice, as is identifying the right time to negotiate adjustments.

The Equality Act 2010 and CF in the workplace

If you do not make an employer aware that you have a disability, you may lose protection, which would otherwise be available to you under discrimination law. The Equality Act 2010 aims to combat discrimination against people with disabilities and gives you protection against discrimination at every stage of the employment process, including recruitment. If you suspect you have been discriminated against, including being refused a job (or having an offer withdrawn) on the grounds that you have CF, seek specialist advice by contacting Citizens Advice or Disability Rights UK.

Take a look at our factsheet on employment for more information, including details of organisations that can provide support with discrimination.

Download our employment factsheet

If you need more information, or want to share tips, support and advice, please contact us.

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