AF Association
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Capability work issues?

I am interested to find out if anybody here has either been retired on ill health due to Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation, or has had to endure the Capability process from their employer.

I understand that this could be personal and not for discussion in an open forum so if that is the case please send me a private message.

My employer is looking at me from a capability point of view, without first trying to find a position or shift pattern that would be more suitable and as I am quite well versed on my rights (much of it gleaned from here) I know that they are just being lazy and haphazard in their approach.

I am in a position where approximately every couple of months I am finding myself to unwell to attend and to be fair they are seemingly being very understanding. But it has been leaked to me that they are already looking at the Capability process so I would be interested to get together with any of you that have had a similar situation.

Thanks Tim

13 Replies

Hi Tim,

I was a bit like yourself and I work in the NHS! my AF became troublesome over time. just before my third ablation I had dizzy spells and fainted a couple of times, I felt really unsafe driving to work and taking care of patients in case this came on.

Work were pretty good and fortunate for me I had a great boss who understood.

My AF then became more regular and I was getting quite stressed, i couldn't push heavy loads or walk too far without chest ache and breathlessness. I was not offered a job change though I am sure if I pushed maybe it would have been a consideration

I finally decided to leave as I had had enough at that point and get myself put right (having a pacemaker fitted in two weeks) then hopefully I can take up my nursing role again. I did research being finished on health grounds but had to wait to see if my pacemaker made a difference?

Think you have to jump through hoops to get finished with this condition ,though I am sure if I blacked out regularly the outcome may be different as that is pretty dangerous.

I truly think employers need to aware of this condition and give good support but having said that we could name conditions until the cows come home that should be supported.

Hope I have made a bit of sense? forgive me if not I blame AF for a lot of things!



It does not / has not affected me. However, as you will know, a lot depends on what you do and the company's / industry policies and requirements and what is in your contract. In some areas it is lawfully permissible to refuse or terminate on many medical grounds. A company is also obliged to do a risk assessment and discuss it.

However don't forget that just taking time off for a medical condition whether short notice or planned for a procedure is not grounds in itself. For instance if they allowed someone to have 4 months off for a knee replacement and say they were baulking at you having a total of two months off in a year that would be unreasonable and prejudicing against you.


I think that many employers are quite sympathetic but one problem they face is that there are many out there who do swing the lead so it makes the job much harder. Employers need to be seen to be overly even handed and treat every case the same or people will claim favouritism. Lots of companies have "return to work" interviews which many employees feel is a disciplinary meeting and often limits are placed on the number of sick events an employee is allowed in any 12 month period. This often works against hard working people who may try to go back to work too early and then have a second period of sickness as a result and fall foul of the limit of "events". There is also a risk element to all this in that should you faint at work and fall into machinery or onto and hurt another person then the company could be responsible by allowing you to attend. The world has gone mad and the inmates ARE running the asylum I'm afraid so one does need to have good advice from either a union or maybe even CAB in order to fight your corner. AF is one of those "silent" conditions which few who have not experienced it can understand.



Dear Tim, I work as a nurse in the NHS. I have felt very supported since I was diagnosed in 2013. If I am correct, I think I m protected by the Disability Employment Act and as such my employer has a duty of care to me. The RCN has advised me to have representation with me if management are going to discuss any potential changes to my work either hours or my role. I don't ever recall my ability to work being discussed as capability to work - I thought that was more to do with failing to meet standards and under performance not related to health issues?

I have been under the care of Occupational Health and in the past they recommended phased return to work after 3 months off sick it was also advised that I avoid some more strenuous aspects of my role for six months. My manager has just suggested I have another check with Occ Health as I have had three viral infections in six months with a view to possibly changing to working from home one day a fortnight. Not sure what I want to do at the moment!

Hope things get resolved in a positive way for you.


Thanks for the replies, Bryonny the Capability process can be used on health or mental grounds because large periods of sickness can be viewed as failure to fulfill your contract of Employment. Although it is apparently a long drawn out process ad they have to pursue lots of avenues before they can legally finish you. Although I am sure there are many instances of Employers not following the correct procedures.

I am trying to find out if anyone has ended their employment on health grounds due to AF and/or the Capability process being used aganst them.

My own experience has taught me that to be forewarned is to be forearmed.



Dear Timmo, your reply was interesting and foods for thought - more to it than I realose


Sorry, a blip when I was replying to you. There is more to it than I realised. I need to find out more as my situation may change in the future. Wishing you all the best.


I hope what I said hasnt worried you, because as you work at the NHS they are likely to follow the letter of the law. And it sounds as if your manager has your best interests at heart, Just be sure to keep a comprehensive paper trail.



Whether public sector or private sector there are organisations who are good and some not so good and some will be more flexible than others. The same goes for line Managers and HR. Even in "national" organisations such as the NHS it will vary considerably because it is the policies and practices of each individual trust that will be applied and from speaking with friends they do vary quite considerably.

A couple of important things to do is write down all relevant dates especially the dates that you advise them of (eg for appointments / operations / procedures. Ideally confirm in writing (email is OK). That way you are not relying on people's memory. Also note what happens to other people with regard to absences, concessions, etc and write then down at the time. Precedence is a fundamental aspect of English law.


Precedence is a fundamental aspect of English law.

Thanks Peter that is something that will stick with me!!! I feel that part of the problem with AF is that it cant be seen and as a consequence, especially with PAF, you can be viewed as a malingerer.

My employers went down the route of asking for a report from my cardiologist, which incidentally is the beginning of the capability process. I have been sat in a room with a previous Occupational Health representative and accused of it all being in my mind!!! But since I armed myself with information about these processes (much of it gleaned from here) their attitude towards me has changed dramatically.

My issue at the moment is that they are leaving me on a shift pattern which is very difficult (Nights/days) 12 hour shifts, which most of the time I cope with very well, but occasionally I lapse into periods of PAF and have occasional sick days. Which is starting the whole process again (especially since the HR dept staff change every 12 months).



No probs. It is also referred to as Case Law in legal proceedings (which this isn't). As you rightly infer much of the problem is the lack of knowledge and understanding. I admit that I knew nothing of AF and its implications until I was diagnosed with it. However I was in management roles and when people under me had health issues I made sure I read up about the particular issue and did not rely on HR. However I suspect that most do not!!!

If I were you I would also look at AFA and see publications that might be useful to obtain to help educate them (the AFA would for instance send you three copies of booklets if you explain). Also if you have an AliveCor you could show them some results. Also if say there is / was some one who has Class 1 diabetes and they restricted their shift for 8 hours it would be very valid to draw a parallel. I am in persistent AF but I know that there is no way I could even do 8 hours in a day how I am at the moment.


Thanks Peter thats a good idea about the leaflets, I will look into it now.

I feel for you with the persistent AF, Have you had a Cardioversion or Ablation yet?


Had a cardioversion done mid November but I was back in persistent AF after only one week. I am awaiting my first ablation which may be two weeks away of two months away (there are some complications).


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