Do you consider your asthma a disability for work purposes?

I'm completing an equal opportunities form as part of a job application and not sure what to put.

The legal definition under the Equality Act 2010 is: 'a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ (over 12 months) negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.'

This includes situations where the condition is controlled by medication, but if you were to stop taking the medication the above definition would be fulfilled.

My asthma is effectively controlled by medication, but I know if I were to stop taking it I would soon be unable to do simple things like climb stairs, and do have occasional exacerbations e.g. easily get chest infections. This has been the case since the age of six when I was diagnosed. Am I therefore able to consider myself disabled for the purposes of an equal opportunities questionnaire?

19 Replies

  • A few weeks ago I took pred and an antibiotic simultaneously. I had a bad reaction and got sent home from work. My manager told me that because my absence was caused by medication for an Equality Act condition, it would be discounted. 

    If your asthma fits the description, then you should mark disabled. 

  • I think it depends on how you see yourself and how the job might affect your asthma. I refuse to accept that my asthma is a disability as it is well controlled and didn't bother me at work. I did have occasional problems with chest infections, but no more than any other worker had with flu, etc. 

  • I totally agree with you CM.  I always put no if I think a job wouldn't affect my asthma/copd.  You only have to answer yes if they ask you a direct question such as do you have asthma.   If not put no.  x

  • I do because if things get worse you have rights. They would have to make reasonable adjustments to support you. 

  • Thank you! I think my issue is using the word 'disabled' - as someone says above, I don't feel disabled, and don't want to wrongly compare myself to friends and family who have significant physical impairments and genuinely experience multiple barriers to even office work. But if the question was just 'do you have a long-term health condition' or  'would you need any reasonable adjustments in this role' I would have no problem ticking yes, so I suppose I should tick yes.

  • when well controlled,asthma is one of the 'hidden' disabilities but it is a disability nonetheless.  If things get out of control it is even life threatening.  I think you are right to identify your condition upfront so that, if anything does go wrong, your employers are aware of the significance.

  • I always mention it just to be on the safe side

  • Yes I have my asthma registered as a disability at work, even though it is well controlled. Its a good job it is was a few years ago, I kept taking chest infections. My employer was remarking on my sickness record and was going to give my a warning until i pointed out I was registered 

  • I think it is, but I've always hesitated declaring it as such if I'm honest. Interestingly I've just been made redundant & have decided to claim ESA rather than JSA for the time I'll be out of work. It will be interesting to see if they view my collection of lung troubles as a disability.

  • This is very interesting.  I never considered my asthma to be a disability as quite often others without any chronic illness often lost more time off work than I.  However,  I think it is a good idea because often I thinnk employers are more likely to notice that you have it if you mention it as such.  It was years before my last employer knew I had asthma even though I mentioned it on my application form and said it was controlled by medication.

  • I think the criteria has to be - do you think your asthma would be effected by the job you are applying for.  If not then I would put no.  x

  • If you look on the Asthma UK site you will see that asthma is considered a disability in the workplace under the Equality Act 2010.  I have recently had cause to point this out to my employer quite forcefully, as a colleague was wearing a perfume that triggered the worst asthma attack I've ever had and wouldn't stop wearing it.  The company declined to ask everyone to stop wearing perfume etc., even though it was making me incredibly ill, until I printed out the relevant section and made the directors read it and then deal with it appropriately.  Even so, it has taken more than 3 months for the problem to be resolved and although I'm no longer getting any worse, my peak flow is stuck at about 400 when it would normally be 450-480. 

    An existing employer can't dismiss you for having a disability and, I think, a prospective employer doesn't get to refuse to employ you because you have asthma, and you don't have to disclose this at interview.

    I hope this helps.

  • Hi 

    Considering similar myself. Am on my third exacerbation of 2016, Had 3 or 4 last year and 2 hospital admissions. Consequently I'm not being managed on the work sickness pathway. I'm awaiting a referral to occupational health to decide if I am covered by the equality act and to see if there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made. My union and my own enquiries would suggest that I would come under the remit of the equality act. I consider I'm well controlled between exacerbations but I'm on lots of medication to achieve this and still have frequent exacerbations so perhaps I'm not that well controlled after all!

  • If it helps, my experience with Occy Health has been positive, even though I feel that it has required a sledgehammer to crack a nut!  Not only does the Director who deals with HR now take my condition seriously instead of worrying that people who want to wear perfume will be upset if she tells them that they can't (is it ok to admit that she's driving me mad now by constantly checking to see that I'm all right and don't need anything  else changing, asking for a copy of my action plan and details of my meds, peak flow, exercise, sleep and side effects of the meds) but I now feel that my GP is listening to me when I have an appointment.  It's astonishing how much interest you can generate by mentioning 'my Occupational Health Doctor' and offering a copy of the report! 

    Go for it, and good luck.

  • Thanks for this; I am seeing occupational health in a couple of weeks and so will see what happens. 

  • Let us know how you get on.

  • Will do! I'm hoping OH will be very useful at highlighting that all asthma is not the same and that currently I fall into the severe end of the spectrum but am already trying my absolute best to manage what is an awful situation. Thanks! Will update when I've had appointment and discussions with HR

  • I have never thought of myself as being disabled even when my asthma is so bad I cant walk to the bathroom... a few people have told me to apply for PIP and blue badge (I had a blue badge before that my GP recommended I get).. but now I need PIP to get the badge.. but i still can't admit I have a disability....does anyone else have a blue badge or PIP for asthma?

You may also like...