Disability discrimination and asthma

Hi all - my first post.

I'm sure many of us have experienced discrimination at work of one form or another in relation to our breathing disability but how many of us have looked at it within the context of the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 and in particular the clause added in 2004 covering the responsibility of all employers to make ""reasonable adjustments"" to accommodate the needs of disabled people. I've noticed a growing number of posts here talking about employers disregarding the needs or problems of employees with asthma, making derogatory remarks about the condition or motivations of the sufferer, and even a couple of cases where people have faced disciplinary hearings under capability policy due to time off sick or being denied the right to time off for hospital appointments.

I'm no expert on the law but I wondered if anyone had explored the limits of the act with regard to these sort of issues and whether there is a case under the DDA in such cases? I have certainly had issues myself due to time off sick in past jobs where it has come up in interviews and I feel employers should be more sensitive to the unavoidable tendency for people with asthma to be ill at times and not hold that against them when it comes to future prospects.

You can read more about this here:

direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPe...

27 Replies

oldestnewest
  • Hi many times in the last year i have had interviews from the HR dept of our company and what a complete waste of time and lack of understanding! They wanted to pay for me to have a 'medical' with an independant organisation such as BUPA. I looked in to this and it is just a basic medical that dosen't even involve a respiratory specialist. I do not take advantage of the fact that i have brittle asthma and as soon as i am out of hospital mostly ITU i am back at work the next day. There needs to be more understanding and knowledge to employers as to what asthma actually is and the effects it has on the individual. I understand now that brittle asthma is now recognised as a disability but know body nows what it is! I am totally frustrated about the way people talk to me when i.ve just come out of hospital with comments like 'don't you look well' what does a person with chronic asthma look like????? should i have a disfigurement or a limb missing to make it obvious? lol

  • Hi many times in the last year i have had interviews from the HR dept of our company and what a complete waste of time and lack of understanding! They wanted to pay for me to have a 'medical' with an independant organisation such as BUPA. I looked in to this and it is just a basic medical that dosen't even involve a respiratory specialist. I do not take advantage of the fact that i have brittle asthma and as soon as i am out of hospital mostly ITU i am back at work the next day. There needs to be more understanding and knowledge to employers as to what asthma actually is and the effects it has on the individual. I understand now that brittle asthma is now recognised as a disability but know body nows what it is! I am totally frustrated about the way people talk to me when i.ve just come out of hospital with comments like 'don't you look well' what does a person with chronic asthma look like????? should i have a disfigurement or a limb missing to make it obvious? lol

  • Hi Kymeia,

    Welcome to Asthma UK - I hope you find us a useful source of information and support.

    You are right in saying that many of us have experienced problems with discrimination and unsympathetic attitudes to our condition at work - searching the fora under the term 'work' will reveal an abundance of stories.

    I am in the process of setting up a website with employment rights information and a scheme where we can share these experiences; many people from the forum have already very kindly offered to be involved but if anyone else is interested then any new experiences would be very welcome.

    I think a big problem for many people as far as the Disability Discrimination Act is concerned is the definition of disability. The Act defines a disabled person as someone who 'has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'. Obviously, this will apply to many of us who have severe or brittle asthma, but may not include people who have intermittent problems which nevertheless can impact on work and be extremely difficult to deal with.

    The other main difficulty in applying the Act is the obligation of employers to make 'reasonable changes' - it is fairly vague phraseology and lawyers could get rich on arguing the exact interpretation. Something that is considered 'reasonable' by one employer in one profession may well be completely unreasonable to another.

    Even for people who have asthma which does not fall into the strict definition of a disability according to the Act, there are of course employment rights and obligations on the part of your employer. Studying your contract is a good place to start as these rights and obligations can vary from job to job. The length of time that you have been employed also makes a difference to your rights. There is some general advice about employment rights, including sick pay, at direct.gov.uk/en/Employment...

    If you have had a lot of absences due to asthma (or any health problem) it's often worth asking for a referral to Occupational Health - your employer may insist on that anyway. This shouldn't be seen as something to fear or a challenge to be overcome - they are there to help you to manage your job more effectively in the context of your health problems and they are very good at suggesting adaptations to your job and working conditions that may help. These suggestions also carry a lot of weight with employers.

    Other good sources of information are:

    Your local advice centre or Citizen's Advice Bureau - they often have a lot of experience at dealing with employment issues including unfair dismissal.

    The Equality and Human Rights Commission (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/Pages/default.aspx) - deal with all forms of discrimination.

    The Disability Rights Commission (http://83.137.212.42/SiteArchive/drc_gb/default.aspx.html) - this organisation has now unfortunately closed down, but there is some useful information in the archives of the site.

    I think the most important thing with issues related to employment with a disability or illness is to speak up early if there is a problem - if things are left until crisis point is reached and you are not coping with your job or end up in hospital, it is obviously a lot harder for employers to deal with and make changes, as well as being a lot harder on you.

    Hopefully by sharing our experiences we can help each other through these difficult issues.

    Em H

  • I think the problem with the definition in the act is it's not entirely consistent with the ICF (WHO) framework and therefore does not recognise that disability is not a function merely of impairment or illness but a complex and changeable function of the relationship between a person's functioning and the social context they live in including opportunities for participation and employment. Now clearly, while Asthma is a variable illness it is also definitely a chronic one and one that is prone to flaring up at various points and also that makes one susceptible to secondary illnesses such as chest infections (in that sense it's not so different from many other illnesses such as MS or ME that are also chronic, also lead to varying levels of impairment and also lay one open to secondary illnesses). Because of this it does lead to potential restrictions on social participation ranging from access (particularly before the smoking ban this was a major issue) and inclusion in work. Therefore the attitudes and actions of employers themselves are a factor in how disabling asthma is for a sufferer - a positive employer willing to make adaptations to the needs of someone with asthma creates an environment that is less disabling - i.e. less restricting of the person's participation in society. So I certainly think there is a case for seeing asthma and related conditions such as emphysema and COPD as ""breathing disabilities"" and for inclusion under the act - however badly it is worded we should seek to make a case for this.

  • Hi Kymeia

    Michael, Liz's other half here

    Liz has actually tried to take her employer to a tribunal for disability discrimination. She was prevented from putting her case because she had insufficient evidence but her employer did agree that both her asthma (occupational asthma caused at her present workplace but not brittle or severe) and her epilepsy (the main cause of the complaint) were disabilities.

    Surely, if asthma is bad enough to cause problems at work, it is having a significant effect on your day to day life, it is certainly long term as it doesn't just disappear and therefore meets the definition.

    Liz's problem was that someone who had refused to work with her stated that it was not because of her epilepsy. also, although the tribunal had ordered disclosure of documents her employer failed to supply copies of documents which we know must have existed. Liz was not in a position where she could have attended the tribunal herself as to do so would almost certainly have landed her in hospital as she has to be so careful. Finally, Liz could not afford to be legally represented (at a tribunal you do not get your costs back if you win) whereas her employer was.

    In conclusion, if you are having problems at work due to your asthma you will probably meet the definition of disabled but that is just the beginning.

    Michael

  • *pokes head in door*

    Michael you need to open your own account, It breaches the t&c's to use someone elses account. Please do not use Liz's account in the future. I cannot send a PM as Liz has chosen not to accept them. Thankyou

    Nutty (moderator)

  • Hi Michael,

    You are right in saying that there does need to be more recognition of the fact that chronic illnesses like asthma and epilepsy can cause havoc with working patterns and time off, and I do think there is an argument that something which significantly affects ability to work full-time could be considered to be a disability.

    However, I don't think the wording of the DDA at the moment supports that; it is quite specific in saying that the condition must have a 'SUBSTANTIAL and LONG-TERM adverse effect on his ability to carry out NORMAL DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES' to be defined as a disability. Intermittant asthma that causes someone to have time off now and again but is well controlled in between episodes would not, I think, necessarily be considered to have a substantial and long-term effect. 'Normal day-to-day activites' are generally considered, from a legal point of view, to be so-called 'personal and domestic activities of daily living' (ADLs) - for example, shopping, cleaning, personal care. By this definition, the ability to go to work due to ill-health would not necessarily qualify as a normal day-to-day activity, so the Act would not apply unless other ADLs were affected too.

    I am not an expert on case law by any means, but I have been reading a great many case studies recently, and that does seem to be the way the Act is interpreted in tribunal a lot of the time. I'm delighted for anyone who has achieved success in invoking the DDA where asthma is concerned, but I do think that it's still very much a 'grey area'.

    Kymeia, I think it's an excellent point that the attitude of your employers (and indeed society in general) has an influence on the degree of disability that you have (the social model of disability, if I remember rightly from Med School?). Sadly, as you might have gathered from reading the board, many of our members find the attitudes of their employers sadly lacking - asthma at the severe end of the spectrum is a very misunderstood condition, perhaps because of it's prevalence at the mild - moderate end of the spectrum. The definition of disability under the Act, though, seems to be purely functional, and take little account of the social model, despite this model being in line with WHO guidelines. I suppose it's just another example of statute law lagging behind sociological interpretations of health and disease.

    Very interesting and relevent topics of debate, here - and certainly of great use to me as I try to plan my site, so thanks, folks!

    Em

  • hey,

    I have to say i've found reading this post very useful and interesting. I've been off for the weekend personally and i am back to work tomorrow and i am dreading it.

    Its been interesting to read all the posts on here.

    In my opinion i think part of the problem is education - i think if employers had a proper understanding of what was going on and how the illness worked etc they would maybe be more understanding.

    I would also warn people to be careful regarding occupational health proposals - because of what my report has came back saying (from OH who has never met me and only knows whatever the PM or managers have told her - they are not contacting my own personal doctor.)

    Because of this report i am needing to hand my notice in tomorrow morning as i can not do what they are asking me to do. OH has came back saying i need to work in an area with a decent temp and that does not have heavy lifting (this does not affect me at all) and that i can work between the hours of 8am and 10pm so apparently i have to do something within that and to help my health i nee to give up my hobbies - (i present a radio show on one station and do promotions for another this takes around 4 hours a week in total.)

    I feel the hours i have been told to do and that i have been told its my final offer till i'm out - i am getting treated like such an idiot and in a way it has ruined my life - beause i'll be jobless i'll end up homeless as i won't have money for anything etc.

    other suggestions that were made made me feel so stupid as i said in a seperate post i maybe enjoy the attention the attacks bring - lucky i have many collegues who have seen me during attacks and know i am petrified and to be honest i try and hide my attacks as much as possible and ask people to leave me as i do not like an audience - as i'm sure many of you understand as well - when you are mid-attack you don't want lots of people around and fussing as its you personally that knows how to deal with it.

    With the hours that they want me to work it means i can't go home for XMas etc- although i have already booked trains etc which i've been told is not there problem so if i stay i need to spend the likes of Xmas alone a si won't be away in time.

    So the object of all this is to be wary of all employers as they may tell you one thing but they will go and do something completely different.

  • laurenjayne, please don't resign, it puts you in a much weeker poition when applying for benefits etc - DWP can (and will) say you chose to make yourself unemployed. You have to wait until your employer sacks you - horrible though that is. Request a face-to-face meeting with OH, explain they have not had been given full details of the situation and you need to supply relevant info from your GP/consultant.

  • they are under the impression that they have all the information that they need so will not write to my doctor.

    Its just i need to start htese new hours next week and its not enoughnotice for such a big change in my life - i feel leaving is my only option.

  • Hello laurenjayne, sorry to hear you are having such a rotten time at work, I know it's kind of late but Please do not resign tomorrow, if you try to to carry on whist looking into a follow up with your GP and even an independent doc you will have a much better ""leg to stand on"".

    After 2 years of deteriorating health my previous employers accepted what I was not Putting it on and that it was the conditions at work that were the main triggers to my now permanently ill health. They sent me to a consultant of their choice who came back with the same conclusion as my GP, Consultant, OT and Physio!!!

    Go to the C.A.B and see if they can help.

    Keep your chin up ...I have been there, and I know how upsetting this is.

    But remember only you ...really know what it is better for you, and no matter what we say you have to put your own emotional and physical well being first.

    I hope this has been of some help

    Big hugs from here in Orkney.

    Please let me know if you wish...what you decide to do

    Susy

  • laurenjayne

    I understand why you want to resign but as has been said it will not stand you in a good posiion for getting a new job nor benefits in the interim. Alhtough it could be possibly classed as constructive dissmissal which basically means they left you no choice as the working conditons were not acceptable.

    What I would advise you to do is to seek some advice from an employment law specialist. Look in yellow pages find a large company who have legal recognition, it will be obvious to see in the advert. Most firms now give your first meeting free so you will be able to find where you legally stand properly as long term this is going to affect your future employment prospects. Most companys know the alw but trip themselves up when enforcing it. For that reason you need sound proffessional advice

    I have been through this with my husband on who has a totally different medical complaint who did get the sack but even his union was oblivious to what DDA could do. We did get his job back and the slate wiped clean so his employment record was fine, then he resigned knowing he could go to another job and the firm had to give him a good reference.

    Also the DDRC will represent you and assist you if they feel you have a valid case

    I think you have come to the point where you dont really have many other options.

  • I'm pretty certain that, whilst Occy Health don't have to request a report from your GP or hospital consultant, they certainly can't make recommendations without doing an interview and examination of you.

    Haven't OH sent for you for an interview, or requested a report from yourself?

  • Hi All - I'm an HR manager with quite a lot of experience of dealing with people at work with medical conditions, and my advice to Lauren is - go to your GP and get him/her to write to the Occupational Health Dr on your behalf. What your company have done isn't illegal - but they certainly won't have much of a case in court if you haven't had any form of examination from Occupational Health or if they have not had access to your medical records in any way. They will only have been able to comment generally about asthma - and if your OH Dr is not a respiratory specialist, he/she is most likely to have reported on the basis of journals and textbooks and not much else. Before you resign, I suggest you try this route! If you would like some help writing letters to your HR dept or OH Dr, PM me and I'll do all I can.

    P.S. I'd be interested to find out who your OH specialist is supplied by, too.

    Karen

  • Hi Everyone

    I've just popped in for a catch up and find this thread really interesting. I'm no legal expert, but I work in the field of epilepsy and know that the DDA looks at the effect of a person's condition without medication. So, I would guess that many of us would be covered. In respect of a legal person for Laurajane, I think Russell Jones and Walker in London have built up a huge amount of expertise in DDA cases. They have a free screening service through their website, which will tell you whether you are likley to be successful with a DDA claim. By the way, the Disability Rights Commission now comes under the Equality organisation - sorry, can't remember their full name.

    Kathyx

  • Hi Emily

    The ICF is not so much a social model of disability as a Biopsychosocial model. Unlike more extreme versions of the social model it still recognises that there may be a medical or biological component of disability in that individuals may have a particular impairment, condition or functional deficit, but also recognises that social and environmental factors play a huge role in determining whether a particular impairment is actually disabling for a person or not.

    Regarding your point about Asthma as a disability:

    ""However, I don't think the wording of the DDA at the moment supports that; it is quite specific in saying that the condition must have a 'SUBSTANTIAL and LONG-TERM adverse effect on his ability to carry out NORMAL DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES' to be defined as a disability. Intermittant asthma that causes someone to have time off now and again but is well controlled in between episodes would not, I think, necessarily be considered to have a substantial and long-term effect. 'Normal day-to-day activites' are generally considered, from a legal point of view, to be so-called 'personal and domestic activities of daily living' (ADLs) - for example, shopping, cleaning, personal care. By this definition, the ability to go to work due to ill-health would not necessarily qualify as a normal day-to-day activity, so the Act would not apply unless other ADLs were affected too.""

    I can see your point but I think the act's way of defining disability is excessively rigid and not entirely consistent with WHO. However all the same even within these limitations I still think there are grounds for seeing asthma as a disability and I have certainly always classed it as such and so does the University I work at (i.e. the University's disability services) and as far as I know so do most others. For example I came across this from Oxford University:

    admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/disab/as...

    I think even within the terms of the act a chronic condition may be classed as a disability even if it's effects are not always substantial ALL THE TIME as long as it can become substantial unpredictably or when not well managed. I can think of several conditions that would fall into this category including epilepsy and even people with conditions like MS and Arthritis can have prolonged periods of relative remission but within that still have to be careful about what they do to avoid a relapse. Although I do not class myself as someone with severe Asthma (I know what severe asthma is like as my ex wife had much more severe Asthma than I and I would not put us in the same boat - she was in and out of hospital constantly whearas have only needed emergency admission on 2 occasions and one of those I had Pneumonia) I do have to manage my life carefully to avoid getting breathless and as I have a proneness to chest infections have to be careful about that as well. Up until the recent smoking ban for example I was unable to go in most pubs or clubs and I still have to ask people not to smoke near me as it is a major trigger for me. I would certainly class not being able to access most pubs and clubs as disabling. Likewise I would say it is reasonable to expect employers to make some adjustments to this condition including making at least some allowances for visits to the doctor and time off sick and feel that employers who are abusive and intolerant towards people with asthma may well be potentially breaching the DDA - certainly its something I think should be explored further.

  • I completely agree that the wording of the Act is overly rigid and doesn't take into account the WHO definition of disability, which is why I made the point about statute law lagging behind sociological interpretations of health and disease. I do think that the scope of the Act could usefully be expanded to include conditions which relapse and remit but can be very disabling at times. The Act does in fact make some allowance for this by including people who have had a disability in the past.

    I also agree that for many people, even those with seemingly well-controlled asthma, their condition does impose restrictions on their lifestyle which could certainly be argued to be 'disabling', if not 'a disability'. This may seem like semantics, but I think it is an important distinction.

    I think the vast majority of people, including most people with asthma, would have difficulty in accepting a diagnosis of asthma as a disability per se. The vast majority (perhaps 95 - 97%) of people with asthma can be controlled almost completely with few symptoms and minimal impact on their day-to-day lives once the right combination of medication is found. I think it is very important that people with asthma should approach contact with health-care professionals and management of their condition with the expectation that this will be the case, at least until all therapeutic avenues have been exhausted (and not many of us come to that stage). To define asthma as necessarily a disability runs the risk of undermining that expectation; an expectation which is already lacking in a lot of people, as a brief perusal of this board will show. If you are told that you are 'disabled', it is then all too easy to reach too early an acceptance that symptoms will always be present, when this does not necessarily have to be the case.

    Another important issue is the psychological impact upon a person of being defined or self-defining as 'disabled'. We all know that labels can have significant power, and whilst being recognised as having a disability may be of benefit as far as work and education are concerned, there may be a pay-off in terms of the effect on the person. I don't know if there has been any work on whether being defined as 'disabled' increases the likelihood of abnormal illness behaviours and over-adoption of the sick role, but my personal observations of dealing with patients with chronic illness suggests that this might be the case.

    Personally, I have had a diagnosis of brittle asthma for about 12 years, with multiple hospital admissions and ICU admissions every year during that time. My condition has certainly always placed restrictions on what I could do, from having to give up the hill-walking and back-packing that I enjoyed as a teenager to being unable to do an intercalated BSc whilst at university. However, during that time I have been successful in completing a medical degree and was able to practice medicine full-time for four and a half years, until March 2006. I certainly have not defined myself as 'disabled' during my time at university or whilst I was working, and I think to do so would have been very damaging to my coping mechanisms for dealing with my condition. I realise that this may not be the case for everyone, and that some people may cope better with their condition by accepting the label of 'disabled' earlier on in the course of their illness. For myself, though, I would have found it very difficult to accept this label any earlier - it is only now that I am unable to work and require a wheelchair and carers to assist me with personal activities of daily living, that I grudgingly accept the label. Again, I must stress that this is a very individual thing and I certainly would not want to argue with anyone who was defined or self-defined as 'disabled' without reaching this level of dependency. I will readily admit that my labelling (or refusing to label) myself in the past was to some extent a psychological trick to help to motivate myself and avoid defining myself by my condition, but if we are considering the biopsychosocial model of disability then we must surely take into account the impact of these tricks that we play on ourselves.

    When I was at university (admittedly a while ago - 1996 - 2001) asthma certainly was not automatically considered to be a disability, and in fact I had to struggle initially to be allowed small concessions like being able to take my car onto campus. I did not get Disability Living Allowance then (because I was not sufficiently impaired to be entitled to it) and thus was told that I was not entitled to Disabled Students' Allowance (I don't know if this is still the case - I do know of students who get Disabled Students' Allowance without receiving DLA). My experience of talking to students at various different institutions around the country would suggest that the attitude to asthma as a disability is quite variable, although it seems from what you have said that it is perhaps more widely recognised than it was. Certainly, as we have read, among employers it is greatly under-appreciated that asthma can be very disabling.

    I suppose in summary, I agree that the DDA can be a useful tool for people with asthma who are struggling with work related issues, and I also agree that the terms of the Act, in taking a purely functional view of disability, are probably too rigid to serve everybody in this way who would benefit from it. However, I don't think there is a case for a blanket definition of asthma as a disability, and I think that the majority of asthmatics, if asked, would not be defined by themselves or their health-care providers as disabled. If we are considering disability as a biological, psychological and social construct, as the WHO tells us that we should, then we must surely consider the psychological and social impact of labelling people as disabled and the effect that this will have on illness behaviour and adoption of the sick role.

  • Hey,

    Tesco have there own occupational advisor who i have never met. My doctor did write to her a few years ago but at the time it was mainly regarding panic attacks.

    The information supplyed to OH this time has been from the current personnel manager who has known me a matter of weeks - she only knows what i can tell her which is the medication i am on etc. They have now decided what i am able and unable to do from whatever the PM has told OH. I do however believe my doctor writing would do some good.

    I took a pretty bad asthma attack at work today which i really struggled to control - I have been to my doc who has advised me to find another job and put my health first but for some reason i found myself declining the offer off a sickline.

  • However, I don't think there is a case for a blanket definition of asthma as a disability, and I think that the majority of asthmatics, if asked, would not be defined by themselves or their health-care providers as disabled. If we are considering disability as a biological, psychological and social construct, as the WHO tells us that we should, then we must surely consider the psychological and social impact of labelling people as disabled and the effect that this will have on illness behaviour and adoption of the sick role.""

    Hi Emily - yes I agree with you. I too would not see it as a ""blanket definition"" and I didn't quite mean to imply that. Indeed I feel that would go against the whole spirit of the ICF definition which takes into account, as you say, the psychosocial and cultural subtleties bound up with labels and also is very much about a relative decoupling of the concept of disability from that of impairment or illness - i.e. having a particular impairment is not necessarily equivalent to having a disability and much depends on a person's experiences within their social context.

  • At work I was moved desk and was put next to the photocopier. Immediately I started getting wheezy, feeling suffocated, etc. and mentioned this to my manager - to which she started shouting at me to ""get on with my work and stop complaining"". Apparently asthma isn't a proper disease anyway... *rolls eyes*

    I also have dyslexia and dyspraxia, but apparently they aren't real either *shrugs*

  • My work has just got worse and worse - so much so my doc has had to sign me off on the sick which is very unlike me. They are now trying to tell me i asked for the change when i never so i need to get in touch with one of my union rep's tomorrow as he will bck me up on what i said etc as conveniently they have lost the notes.

    This week i've taking to pretty bad asthma attacks in my work as i'm so worried and i just can't go back incase i take another - i was really bad yesterday and multiple doses of my salamol and my salbutamol through my spacer just wouldn't work at first - luckily one of the first aiders at work was in and was fantastic. I even told my work it was a bad attack - as much as i could with struggling to speak - to which i was told to just go home and i couldn't even get out the locker room with all my stuff.

    I felt different after this attack as well - i normally recover quite quickly but this time i never - it seemed to last for ages and i was really woozy and shaky after it, i went to get a bus home but ended up getting a taxi, i was sick and when i came home i just fell asleep. i phoned my doc who signed me off, told me to call her or NHS 24 if they were closed if i got any worse and gave me an appointment for friday. is this normal after an attack?

    I'm just annoyed i'm not at work to fight my case!!!

  • Cyberpunkgrrl - welcome to Asthma UK, I hope you find us a useful source of information and support. I'm sorry to hear that you've been having problems with your bosses recognising that asthma is a 'proper' disease - unfortunately, it's an all too common problem. When I was working, I occasionally came across the same attitude - and I worked in a hospital!

    If you have continued problems, it might be that a letter from your GP would make the situation clearer to your managers. You could also consider talking to your union rep, if you have one, or the Citazen's Advice Bureau. You have a right to work in an environment that does not make you unwell, so keep on trying!

    Laurenjayne - I'm sorry that things are going from bad to worse for you. It does sound like you had a nasty attack. If you are in the situation again where multiple doses of your salbutamol aren't having any effect, please do make sure you seek emergency medical advice. It is normal in my experience to feel weak, wobbly and washed out for several days after a nasty attack - take it easy, won't you, and I hope you feel better soon. I'm glad you have your union rep involved - I hope you get somewhere with them.

    Take care all

    Em H

  • Thanks for that EmilyH - i do think however the best thing i can do is to find another job as difficult as it may be.

    I feel really chesty today so begining to think its the start of a chest infection - yike.

    I maybe shouls of tried to get emergency medical help yesterday but i think what was making it worse was the fact that i couldn't get myself to calm down and i was panicing which was making myself worse - if i'd stayed calm i would of been fine. Its my usual response of i don't like to bother the emergency services etc. - stupid realy as thats why they are there.

    Hopefully when i speak to my union rep tomorrow he'll be helpful - fingers crossed.

    xx

  • Hey,

    I thought i'd update you on my meeting with my union rep etc today.

    He is totally on my side and remembers everything that was said so can back me up - i've to get back in touch on Wednesday and he thinks i need to put in a grevience (unfortunately i need to ask the PM/Big Boss for the form which will be the most difficult thing.)

    I've been adviced to also get a letter form my doc stating that the way i'm getting treated by management at work (not the job) is making me more stressed and therefore making me ill - anxiety and asthma attacks. Not quite sure how all that will work or if a doc will be happy to give me a letter etc but we'll see.

    At least my rep can prove that the management are lieing and making out i've said things that i have not.

    Then hopefully the grevience can sort it all out and if not i have a case for constructive dismissal once i leave. does that make sense?

    I'm glad i'm signed off though as i really can't face being there.

  • Disability discrimination and asthma..

    Hi,

    If your asthma is work related, vocational asthma, then the DWP are the worst offenders. My lungs sustained damage at work eleven years ago, asthma developed because of the damage (my lungs were cooked in a class 1 clean room - the cleanest air on the planet), and yet again three weeks ago the DWP replied to a claim for benefits saying quote: ""vocational asthma does not exist, so you must be in good health and just a malingerer"".

    I'm now virtually housebound due to my asthma, and if I didn't use pre-paid prescriptions my monthly medication cost would be in the region of £70; my wife has to pay for my medication out of her pension! So, even if I could get out I cannot get covered by insurance to work in my profession as a robotics and computer engineer. I have appeared on TV and Radio for Asthma UK due to my chronic condition, and the DWP tells me that I'm not entitled to any benefits at all - they will not even pay my NI stamp to entitle me to a pension if I perform a miracle and reach retirement age.

    To top it all, one of my local MPs avoids talking to me at all costs, even after she has made numerous appointments to speak to me on the telephone. Who is she? Anne McGuire M.P., Parliamentary Under Secretary, DWP, and Minister for Disabled People. Says it all, doesn't it!

    Sorry for having a bit of a rant, but this is a subject that really gets to me, and that is why I'm now studying Politics & Social Science through the Open University (God Bless them. My first University at Stirling threw me out for having a chronic illness and being disabled) to have a chance to swim in the big pond and maybe make a difference. Wherever you are, keep fighting!

    Kindest regards,

    John.

  • Hi there John,

    I'm sorry to hear of your problems in getting your condition recognised; it certainly sounds like you have had a struggle on your hands.

    I'm interested to read of your diagnosis of 'vocational asthma' - it's not a term I've come across in my medical training, and I can't find any information about it from a literature search. I wonder if this is part of the reason for the problems you are having with the DWP? You might find it of use to use the more widely accepted term 'occupational asthma', which is recognised by both the government department the Health and Safety Executive (see hse.gov.uk/asthma/) and the legal system, as well as the healthcare profession.

    Have you seen a consultant with expertise and interest in the area of occupational asthma, to get a formal diagnosis? It is a rather specialised area, and certainly when it comes to benefits, an expert opinion is very useful. I see that you mention the University of Stirling - are you based near there? Professor Jon Ayres, a respiratory consultant with an interest in occupational asthma, is based at the University of Aberdeen, and is absolutely excellent.

    Among other things, a specialist consultant might be able to determine which particular respiratory sensitiser triggered the asthma in your case, if you don't already know. I would have imagined (perhaps naively) that a clean room would be one of the best places to be where lung disease is concerned - clearly not the case, for you. The agent responsible is important, because if it is on the Health and Safety Executive's list of known respiratory sensitisers, you may also be entitled to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

    In terms of Disability Living Allowance, you could certainly try appealing the DWP's decision, if you have not done so already. I know many people who have applied to the DWP for Disability Living Allowance for asthma, have been turned down on the first occasion, and have subsequently appealed and been granted the award. Your local Citizens' Advice Bureau should be able to advise you on the appeals process and may be able to offer you representation if your case goes to a tribunal.

    I'm stunned that the DWP would send you a letter stating that you are 'just a malingerer' - you must be very angry. In the past when I have had patients who have been refused DLA, the refusal letter has always taken the form of a simple factual statement that they are not entitled to benefits, rather than that sort of personal and pejorative statement. Again, you may have grounds to complain about that - even if they don't think that you are entitled to benefits, you have a right to be treated with courtesy and dignity.

    I'm sorry to hear that you have also had difficulties with the University of Stirling related to your disability. Again, I'm very surprised to hear this - like most universities these days, Stirling seems to have a very clear and positive policy towards students with disabilities (http://www.diversityandequality.stir.ac.uk/disability/). I wonder if you have considered invoking the Disability Discrimination Act to obtain some redress for their treatment of you?

    In terms of paying for prescriptions, if you are not working and have no income, you are likely to be exempt from prescription charges. Form HC11 gives you more information about this (http://www.ppa.org.uk/pdfs/ppc/HC11_01_July_07.pdf).

    I'm glad to hear that you are now studying with the Open University - I wish you all the best with your studies as well as with your health and benefits issues.

    Take care,

    Em H

  • DWP

    Hi John,

    I'd like to agree with EmH, you have get the wording right for the DWP - they have to be able to fit you into one of their inflexible and predetermined categories. I was initially turned down for Industrial Injury Benefit as I applied under the 'occupational asthma' category but could not identify a sensitizing agent. I ended up with asthma after exposure to an irritant gas so no sensitizer was involved. I was advised to reapply under the 'Accident' category and qualified. Not that the meager pension in any way compensates for the lose of my health and career but it's better than nothing !

You may also like...