Support to help you keep your job when ill or disabled

If you’ve developed a health condition or become disabled, you probably want to know whether you can take time off work, work more flexible hours, or have adjustments made to your job or place of work. Here’s a summary of your legal rights at work and support to help you keep working.

All employees have rights. For example, you have a right to paid holidays and to be paid at least the national minimum wage. If you’re a disabled worker, you have additional rights at work.

What are your rights as a disabled worker?

By law, your employer:

  • is not allowed to discriminate against you because you are disabled
  • must keep your job open for you and can’t pressure you to resign because you’ve become disabled
  • has to make reasonable adjustments to your place of work, the job you do, or the terms and conditions of your employment

Who does disability legislation apply to?

These additional rights might apply to you, even if you don’t think of yourself as disabled. For example, if you have a physical condition such as cancer, MS or HIV, or a mental illness such as depression.

The legislation applies to anyone who has ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect’ on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. For more information about what counts as a physical or mental impairment, ask an experienced adviser such as a Citizens Advice adviser.

Find your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau, including those that can give advice by email.

Reasonable adjustments

Did you know?

More than one in four workers in the UK has a long-term health condition or impairment.
Source: Labour Force Survey

Your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that you are not disadvantaged at work.

These could include:

  • flexible working hours, time off for appointments or more breaks
  • giving you alternative duties or moving you to a more suitable workplace
  • providing specially adapted equipment, such as a computer, keyboard, telephone, chair or desk
  • adapting the workplace, for example by providing ramps
  • providing additional services, such as an interpreter

Before asking your employer for such adjustments, it’s a good idea to find out what others have found useful in your situation. If you’re a member of a trade union they might be able to help. Alternatively, contact an organisation for people with a similar injury, illness or disability.

Find links to disabled groups and specific organisations on the Scope website.

Your employer does not have to do everything you ask for. The adjustment has to be ‘reasonable’ and if something is too expensive it may not count as such.

If your employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments

If your employer refuses to make the reasonable adjustments you’ve asked for, you should get advice on how to resolve the problem. If you are still unsuccessful, you can take things further.

Find out more about what your employer has to do by law on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
Where to get help with discrimination problems on the Advice Guide website.

Time off work

Statutory Sick Pay

If you’ve developed a disability or health condition and can’t work, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay. This is the minimum you’re entitled to. Some employers have their own sick pay scheme which is more generous.

Read more about Statutory Sick Pay on the GOV.UK website.

Employment and Support Allowance

If you still can’t work after 28 weeks you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance.

Find out if you would be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance on the GOV.UK website.

Disability Leave

Your employer does not have to allow you extra paid sick leave just because your time off is disability-related.

However, you can ask them to:

  • extend your sick pay
  • let you take the extra time off as annual leave
  • offer you paid ‘Disability Leave’

Not all employers offer Disability Leave. Those that do offer it record it separately from your sick leave. You can use Disability Leave to:

  • take time off for treatment or assessment
  • allow you to recover from treatment
  • take unplanned time off work relating to your disability or condition, which would otherwise be recorded as sick leave

If you’re a member of a trade union they might be able to negotiate your Disability Leave with your employer on your behalf.

If you’re waiting for reasonable adjustments to be made

If you’re off work while your employer arranges for reasonable adjustments to be made, this should not be recorded as an ‘absence from work’.

Phased return to work

Gradually building up your working hours, or working from home before you go back into the office are two common ways of helping people get back to work after sick leave.

This phased return to work counts as a reasonable adjustment. You can arrange it directly with your employer, with advice from your GP, nurse or occupational therapist.

The Access to Work scheme

Talk to a disability employment adviser

Contact your local Jobcentre Plus to speak to a disability employment adviser who can help you access government schemes for disabled people.

An Access to Work grant can be used to pay for practical support to help you keep your job if you have a disability or health condition.

The money can be used to pay for things like:

  • adapting the equipment you use at work
  • buying new specialist equipment
  • help with travel costs if you can’t use public transport to get to work
  • a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
Find out more about Access to Work on the GOV.UK website.

If you have a mental health condition and are absent from work or finding work difficult, support is available from the Workplace Mental Health Support service. This service is part of the Access to Work scheme.

Find out more about the Workplace Mental Health Support service on the Remploy websiteopens in new window.

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