Many people have amazing careers while living with IBD. However, there may be times where you may not be well enough to work and so it is important that you are a part of a supportive workplace that understands your needs, in line with laws that protect you at work.
Your Employment Rights & Protections
‘The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to ask intrusive questions about your health – including previous sickness absence – before making a job offer.’ You also can’t be ruled out of a job due to an illness or disability if you are able to perform the job. If you already have a job or get a new job, you can request reasonable adjustments to support your ability to work.
Is IBD a disability?
Not everyone who has Crohn’s or Colitis considers themselves to have a disability.
The definition of disability according to The Equality Act 2010 is “have(ing) a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”
You may feel that this definition fits in with your experience but that you do not label yourself as disabled – and this is completely fine! Your experience is your own and how you identify is a personal decision.
Having a diagnosis of IBD may make you eligible for certain benefits, which we will explore in this article.
Roughly half a million people in the UK are living with IBD. Read more IBD statistics here.
Am I protected as a freelancer, on a zero hours contract, trainee or self-employed?
Yes, you are still covered under all of these circumstances, although you may not assume so. The Equality Act is in place to protect everyone against discrimination at work.
Can I claim benefits for IBD?
You may be eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if you have Crohn’s or Colitis and you are between 16 and the state pension age. According to Crohn’s and Colitis UK, “PIP is a welfare benefit for adults with a disability or long-term condition, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). PIP helps to cover the extra costs you may face if your IBD makes it hard for you to get around or cope with daily living.”
If you are interested in seeing if you are eligible for PIP, or would like to know more about it, visit this Crohn’s and Colitis page for all of the information you may need.
Reasonable Adjustments For Work
If you have IBD, you can ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments for your work. This is a legal duty for them. You can ask for this once your employer knows you have a disability and/or if you have difficulty with your job or sickness days due to your condition.
Reasonable adjustments that you can request include:
- Time off for medical appointments/treatments
- Flexible working hours
- Unlimited toilet breaks
- Having a work station near to toilets
- Car parking near to your work’s entrance
- Alternative places of work
Disclosing your IBD
…With Your Employer
Deciding whether or not to disclose that you are living with IBD, in a job application, new job or your current job, is really up to you. Ideally, you would want to disclose this so that you can have the right support, but this requires your employer to be informed about what those needs are. You may find that sharing something such as Crohn’s and Colitis’ Employment & IBD Guide for Employers may be helpful for them to better understand your condition.
You may need to note your IBD diagnosis as part of a medical check for a job application, though if you are able to do your job then your IBD shouldn’t be a reason for you not to successfully obtain a job. In your current job, you may want to speak to an occupational health worker or a trade union representative and have them join you in explaining what support you may need.
…With Your Colleagues
It might feel embarrassing to discuss a bowel condition with your colleagues, however, if they know that you may have periods of absence for a specific reason they a) won’t draw the wrong conclusions about your work ethic and b) can help support you at work.
You can speak to your HR department if you want assistance sharing this information with your team, department or select colleagues.
We hope that this article has given you some of the key information that you may need when figuring out how to work with IBD.
As mentioned, it is completely possible to get into a ‘normal’ work routine when living with IBD, even if it means your employer making some simple adjustments to create a better working environment for you.
You can also consider using a bowel movement tracker to better understand when and why flare-ups occur. This can help you to self-manage living with IBD and to know what adjustments in the workplace you might need.
Although ups and downs in your health experience may happen, remember to be kind to yourself and do what is best for you.
If you are looking for more support…
Why not join the My IBD Care community? After you download the free app and sign up (you’ll be asked a few questions when you) you’ll have access to resources, community events, workshops with experts and Q&As.