Talking to your employer about your health

Talking openly to your employer about your health, or any other problems you are struggling to deal with, is difficult but essential to getting you the support you need to remain in work. For many, worries over redundancy or forced ill health retirement prevent them from being open with their employer. However, it is against the law for you to lose your job because of chronic illness or a need for regular treatment.

Why talk to your employer?

There are good reasons to be open and honest about your situation with your employer:

  • It may make it easier to get time off for medical appointments during office hours if you have open dialogue with your employer.
  • Your employer will find it easier to take reasonable steps to accommodate your needs, including making adjustments (e.g. changes to your working pattern or conditions), if these are considered to be necessary.
  • Your employer, and colleagues, will know what to do if you have a medical emergency.

Preparation

Before talking to your employer, you should prepare what you are going to say and how to explain your needs.

You might consider:

  • speaking to your GP or occupational health about how your condition can affect your work;
  • preparing materials to give to your employer so that they can understand your condition and the diagnosis you have been given;
  • listing the steps you are taking to manage your condition and how these can impact on your work.

Talking about your health

When talking to your employer, and colleagues, about your health:

  • be open, clear and brief about how your condition affects you and your ability to work;
  • tell them important information which can help them respond to a medical emergency;
  • you don’t need to give a lot of detail – just enough so that they understand your condition and can respond in a crisis.

Asking for adjustments to your work

If you’re struggling to do your job because of your health, the Equality Act 2010 says that your employer must make changes (reasonable adjustments) to your working conditions so that you can remain in, and do, your job.

When talking to your employer, consider asking if you can:

  • change job to take on lighter or less demanding work;
  • reduce your workload or get help from a colleague;
  • work flexible hours, or from home;
  • be trained to do another job.

If your employer is unable to make the necessary changes to support you, you’ll be deemed to be unfit for work and this will be recorded in a new fit note.

Help and support

If you feel you’re not getting the help and support you need from your employer, contact your:

  • trade union (if applicable);
  • occupational health provider (if you have one);
  • human resource department, or a human resources adviser;
  • local branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

If you’ve not yet joined a trade union, but would like to know how, you can find out how to join a trade union on GOV.UK. Acas can also advise you if you feel you’re not getting the support you need.