Is asthma a disability

Hello

I was diagnosed with asthma 5 years ago at the age of 35. It took a couple of years before the correct treatment was given, after being hospitalized 2 times. I was also diagnosed with early state Bronchiectasis, given a leaflet on it and that was it.

Up until a year ago, I had been fine, I was taking Seretide morning and night. However, since March last year, I got a cough and wheeze, went to the doctors numerous times over 7 months, always the same old story, steroids and antibiotics, but not always, depending on which doctor I saw (the antibiotics). I was changed from Seretide to Symbicort 400 in June and tried on Montelukast tablets, even though I was given them when first diagnosed and they didn't help.

I ended up in hospital in December, having had a "severe asthma attack". I am continuing with Symbicort but now also use Tiotropium Bromide in the morning. In addition I have been put back on Montelukast for the third time.

Since finishing the steroids two weeks ago, my chest has gradually become tighter, wheezier and I am getting breathless when walking. My peak flow this morning was 140, which it was when I was in hospital and they wouldn't let me go until it was 300.

Sorry for the long message but I was wondering if anyone has had any problems work wise with their asthma? I work in an office for a large company who have been supportive, I have had 4 instances of time off the past year, all asthma related. My manager has suggested maybe I could work from home for a couple of afternoons but she is seeking guidance from HR.

Is asthma classed as a disability or does it depend on the severity?

14 Replies

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  • Thanks for your reply. That is interesting to know that your previous company treated people differently. I think asthma is classed as a chronic illness and so that alone is something that my manager is asking advice on. I am concscious that HR are not medically trained and so they have limited knowledge of asthma itself and the medications. I don't feel that I am in 'trouble' but it worries me if I have to have any further time off sick.

  • In law it's slightly complicated. The Equalities Act defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities."

    So the answer really is "sort of". You don't have any automatic entitlement to blue badges, benefits, etc. However, for employment rights it is much easier to classify it as a disability, & in your situation an employer would be expected to consider reasonable adjustments. It's important though to keep in mind that they have to be reasonable, which is relative to the employer (so, for example, a company with 2 employees has a much lower duty than a company with 2000).

    The other thing is to ask if working at home is per se a reasonable adjustment. Remember the adjustment is about enabling you to access work. There's no point letting you be at home on, say, Mondays & then you get ill one Thursday.

    So, given you say that they are large & supportive, you might want to think about more practical adjustments. When I was a senior manager, some of the adjustments I agreed for asthma or lung problems were:

    - Allowing 5 extra days sickness absence per annum before counting it for performance purposes.

    - Allowing extra 'duvet' days or agreeing home working at short notice.

    - Giving employees regular workplace assessments to ensure the environment is appropriate.

    So, the point is, you really should be thinking what you need to be able to work on equal terms with non-asthmatics, & you need to influence that, not just be told.

    I hope that helps.

  • Only a employment tribunal or higher court can decide if a person is covered by the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010. The definition of disability under this Act is where a physical or mental impairment has a "substantial" or "long-term" adverse effect on an individual's ability to do normal daily activities. Quoted from Occupational Health report.

    I have had this conclusion for asthma.

    Jacqui

  • If you have bronchiectasis are you on carbocisteine as well, which what I have been on since my diagnosis helps thin the mucus. Also do you use symbicort on the smart system for example as a reliever?

    I used to get chest infections every 6mths or so. I haven't had one for 14mths now. I changed jobs which helped. I was working as a nurse, so allergic to the cleaning stuff they used, away from the stress. I am a hospital chaplain now. Had problems earlier in October when we had no heating in the office. We used me as the disability factor to get heating sorted.

    I also take Vit D supplements as read article on here, that helps to.

    Air conditioning I have noticed since I left nursing is a factor. Never noted it before.

    I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis 8 years ago. I have learnt to control it, also having a emergency pack of steroids and antibiotics to start on signs on chest infection.

  • I'm presuming any health issue that affects your ability to function on an ongoing basis as normally you would be able to without it, is classed as a disability. I would Google it ie "definition of disability under employment law" or look on ACAS website. Hope this helps.

  • Asthma is a disability in law. Severe asthma or lung function restriction is a known disability with the DWP. Problems is as you sad on severity of asthma.

    Companies and HR need to be aware of disability concerns of asthma.

    Firstly. I would get your health checked out with a referral to a top lung hospital such as the Brompton.

    Secondly work can cause stress.

    Others. What you eat - stop eating processed food.

    Vitamins - take magnesium zinc and vitamin C in high doses daily.

  • Hi I can't add to the excellent advice you have been given, but just want to say there is a site on here for all lung issues which is The British Lung Foundation. There are many on there with bronchieastis and asthma as well. You will also get lots of help and advice on there.

    I have asthma and copd and am a member of this site. x

  • I found out "by accident" that I was covered by the 2010 disability act. When I changed job, I needed to have an interview with a GP specialising in occupational health. It's worth looking up the definitions for it - I think qualified because I am dependent upon medication to keep me alive (not asthma-related ones, though). At the specialist GP interview, he said that the company would review any recommendations he made, then decide whether that would alter the job offer. My understanding is that they are expected to make reasonable adjustments to your work, and "reasonable" depends on context.

    I have found it very useful to be covered. There is usually a box on a job application which asks if you are covered, and any special requirements for interview.

    Sadly, HR seem to be much more excited about making adjustments if you are covered by the 2010 act, than if you aren't. In fact, they can be so very excited that they get an OH assessment and then implement everything on it. I don't know if it opens up routes to funding, or if it just opens them up to being sued (cynic here).

    My normal GP knew nothing about all of this - actually she said that I would not be covered. So an OH specialist was worth it.

  • Just to clarify, I think there is a difference in "being disabled" as a general term (blue-badge etc), and being covered by the 2010 act. C

  • I also have asthma with having smoked for 26 years, that is what caused it to begin with.. I have managed my asthma by losing weight.. 40# made a huge difference with less and less attacks.. I have gone off my addictive meds and only carry with me a pro air inhaler only unless I really need it. A lot of things can be done to reduce your asthma symptoms. Go online and find out what triggers it and eliminate them completely. This is what worked for me.

  • Hi. I worked for a local authority until a year ago and they were very proactive in ensuring that I was treated as disabled. Your asthma sounds very much like mine in that I had several instances off work all due to my asthma. I was treated as disabled under (I think) the Equalities Act and I had to sign something for HR indicating that I felt I was disabled because of my asthma for work purposes. I had always been office based but gradually did more hours at home until I was based at home most of the time as it suited my asthma better. I also had flexible working (not always possible depending on what you do) but it meant I was contracted to work 24 hours per week but that could be over 7 days anywhere from 8am to 9pm. This meant if my asthma was really bad one day, I could choose to not work or only work a few hours that day, knowing I still had the rest of the week to make up my hours.

  • Unfortunately it is not classed as a disability. I started with bronchial asthma when I was 24 and am now 72. The last 2 years have been very stressful as normally it is under control most of the time. However I have had 3 really bad chest infections re-occurring every 6 months for some reason and just started at week-end again with one. It was when I was rushed into hospital for my first time ever last year that the Consultant who was treating me asked who my specialised respiratory doctor was and seemed most perturbed when I told him I did not have one only my GP or asthma nurse. He told me to go to my GP and ask to be referred but they didn't he just referred me to his nurse who deals with asthma. Fortunately there was an occasional doctor on our pack of practices and I managed to see him last summer when I was really bad. He was very different and said he did not believe in messing about and always referred people, which he did. so I am seeing someone at the moment but when I saw her I was feeling fine. It has just started up again and I had to have an emergency doctor on Sunday evening to help me. I have just read in a newspaper (front page) the GPs are being instructed NOT to refer patients to hospital anymore now because of the state they are in but this annoys me as I have worked full time all my life and paid into the system all my life so would expect to be referred if needed. I also noticed last week this doctor has now been dropped from all of our 4 practices. It has also been under study over the years because asthma IS a life threatening disease our medication should be free but I have paid for all my asthma medication all my working life.

    Good luck for the future. Coco

  • Thank you for your reply. I am sorry that you have been so poorly and I hope you are and will feel better.

    I was referred by my GP but it took 2 months to get the appoibtment and I was admitted to hospital with the asthma attack the day before I was due to attend. Discharged and told will see the consultant in 4 weeks, well after chasing yesterday, I was told I am on the waiting list for an appointment. In the meantime by chest is playing up again so that will no doubt a trip to the GP yet again for steroids.

    I wish you all the best

  • Hi just wondering and this is to everyone on here and would like answers to this :-

    1. Are triggers for asthma an external happening that makes your airways constrict ?

    2. Or is the trigger an internal happening that makes you wheeze.?

    As a 40 year asthma sufferer now cured I look back and actually wonder what caused it ; how did dust, DUST , make me breathless . What are the chances of passing every piece of dust and every time getting breathless . Did the dust say come on lads theres an asthmatic lets get his lungs . How silly does that sound .

    For me I think it was the second option I was self harming . Read my posts to find out why and discuss .

    cheers Andy.

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