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Asthma, work and the Equality Act

Hi Everyone,

My asthma was diagnosed brittle in 2015 having been a bit of a nightmare since 2014. I started a new job last summer and as part of the recruitment process I was completely honest about how much sick time I'd had. Since the new job I've had 3 exacerbations and was admitted to hospital for one of them. One was in a leave week so didn't impact on my work. In the past 12 months I have had 4 courses of steroids and 2 hospital admissions and 3 ED attendances.

However, I'm now being managed on the sickness pathway and have a meeting in Feb with my manager and HR. I believe that asthma this severe may be classified as a disability in line with the equality act.

Anyone have experience of this? What 'reasonable adjustments' proved useful for you?


7 Replies


The Equality Act defines disability and something, physical or mental, that has a substantial and long term effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. Sounds sort of familiar I think! I now have a very supportive employer who has really helped me after a diagnosis of severe eosinophilic asthma in 2013.

I have had two very long periods of sickness, I believe the second exacerbated by a poorly supported return to work after a long ITU stay, the sudden loss of both of my parents and it was back to a 12 hour working day within a week. It was then I took Union advice and started to prepare for a bit of a battle.

The second return was enlightened with a new boss tho - I hadn't changed jobs, my previous boss had. Firstly she asked me what I needed, both with regard the environment but also my working pattern. I think I went about it quite sensibly after reading up on reasonable adjustments. I asked for an extended return to work programme using the organisations return to work policy plus my accrued annual leave. I didn't want to change offices as my team were all there but it was recognised that I couldn't at the early stages have meetings in many different places ( our work site is huge and it can take fit person 15 mins to walk from one office complex to another outside with a lot on a slope). I kept in touch with some people just by phone. I had also spoken with the family about reducing my hours to part time permanently so I planted that idea with the boss as soon as along with a plan about how I thought it could work. After the 3 month return to work we agreed a trial of reduced hours to 3 days a week and after another 3 month extension this was made permanent. Agree that financially I have taken a hit but I haven't had a day off sick with asthma (just one altogether) since Nov 2015. Some days I struggle but I keep going as I love my job and am well supported by people around me.

So my hints are:

1. Seek some advice, CAB if you are not a member of a union

2. Recognise that reasonable adjustments are just that, you cannot expect an employer to change everything.

3. Go prepared to the meeting with some ideas about not only what reasonable adjustments you are looking for but why and how they could work.

4. Check your employers policy but don't try and quote it verbatim as this can alienate people. Just understand your rights.

Good luck!

1 like


In my previous job I was in a similar situation with regards to sickness time off. During the sickness meeting, it was decided that a reasonable adjustment was to increase my trigger days. so basically I could have more time off as long as it was related to asthma before the sickness meetings would kick in.

I agree it can be classed as a disability, on most application forms it actually asks if you consider yourself to have a disability therefore if you feel it is you can say.

I also took advice from my union, you can have a representative present during y

our sickness meeting. I didn't but it might be a consideration in the future.

hope this helps



Thank you both for taking the time to reply. Have had union advice which has been helpful and I think I will suggest that they too avoid triggering the sickness pathway so early or increasing the allowance to achieve the same thing. Had thought about a slight reduction in hours or sometimes working from home.

Thanks again!


I think the Equality Act 2010 says that, for a recognised disability (and asthma is even mentioned as an example in the Act) related absences, the "triggers" are effectively irrelevant. So a reasonable adjustment for the City Council to make is the abolition of the sickness procedure (for me anyway), but they sacked me anyway in the end, and I didn't win at the Tribunal either but what I wrote above is definitely established.

In this next job, my next "absence" meeting is this week, they've told me already (in different ways) that they want me sacked.


4 Occupational Health GPs stated that in their opinion my illness definitely comes under the EA2010


In my previous job I had a gradual phased back to work and then went part time. I then left that job due to pregnancy and asthma. I still work part time now. It was a long time ago and I had to see Occupational Health who then liaised with my employers, also my union got involved as there was discussion of reasonable adjustment and being moved elsewhere. I know you can have an assessment under access to work e.g. if you need a neb in place, adaptions to chairs, transportation. I also had contact with a disability employment adviser worker. At the moment I am xolair jabs which means I have time off and under consultants so need further time off. So far employers been ok but I have been there 12 years so they know when ill.


Well I live in Ireland and am out of work simply because of my Asthma flarups. I need to speak a lot for work, but there is not reconition of the impact of asthma on you work life here. This is unfair and will not change I suspect.


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