Being diagnosed with vasculitis will impact on all areas of your life. And if you’re employed, that will also include your work life.
Vasculitis shares many characteristics with other serious illnesses, but differs in significant ways. As I know from my own experience, when you have been told that you have received a diagnosis after what is usually a long and worrying journey at first you experience relief but then the challenges begin.
When you are told that you have a disease called vasculitis the chances are that you have never heard of it. Vasculitis is a generic term used to identify a number of rare, complex and life changing illnesses. The only certainties are that it is incurable, its causes are unknown and it is potentially fatal if left untreated or misdiagnosed.
For those in employment diagnosis can have a devastating impact. The chances are that your employer will also never have heard of the disease and that in itself presents a problem.
Paradoxically that problem is complicated by the fact that in many cases you will look absolutely fine so an employer can find this difficult to reconcile with the assertion that you are suffering from a major and debilitating disease. I have come across a number of examples of employers simply disbelieving sufferers who are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on working as a direct result of having the disease.
In a career as an employment lawyer I have come across remarkably few employers who set out to treat employees badly. It is bad for business after all. However, decisions taken from a standpoint of ignorance can cause a great deal of damage which is why I always prefer to have a conversation with an employer to explain a condition like vasculitis and its impact on the employee. This simple step often results in identifying a mutually acceptable solution.
Many cases of vasculitis will come within the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 which provides protection against the employer applying less favourable treatment to an employee because of a disability. Your employer has a duty under the Act to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that you can access employment if you are disabled. You cannot be asked to pay for those adjustments.
So a simple conversation between you and your employer around what adjustments would make it easier to do your job is a good place to start. It is always a good idea to keep a note with a date on it just in case you need to refer to it later. In my experience the better you record a discussion the less likely you are to have a dispute and have to use it later.
If the only solution is to recognise that leaving employment is necessary then there are procedures for initiating discussions about agreed terms for departure and sometimes that is the best outcome if the employee cannot continue to work because of the disability.
I have always been a believer in a prevention rather than cure approach to employment problems and applying that results in a dramatic reduction in employment tribunal claims. Being involved in a tribunal claim is potentially very expensive, risky and stressful and should only be used as a last resort.
Malcolm Mackay has years of experience as an employment lawyer, and generously gives some of his time to help LCTF.
If you would like to contact Malcolm regarding any employment issues as a result of vasculitis, please email email@example.com
And you can read about Malcolm’s own experience of vasculitis, as well as other people’s stories, on our Story page.
If you have questions or concerns about employment or money, you might also find our wellbeing service useful. It’s an online resource with information about topics including work, money, relationships and the law. It may not answer your specific query, but could be a good place to start.
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