How can you find work with COPD

I started a job at the beginning of February. However, I was also diagnosed with COPD at the same time after suffering an exacerbation the month before. I was told I have 81% lung capacity. Needless to say, I had to tell my employers about my condition and they rushed to get me seen by an independent medical assessment service. I got a copy and it seemed very positive. From then on, I was moved location and given masks to wear. At the end of my probation they gave me dismissal basing it on 'health issues' I don't want to sue as they are a big corporate firm but how do you get work with this medical condition? My future looks bleak. I welcome any suggestions.

34 Replies

  • I wouldn't think you would be having any problems at 81%. I believe over 80% is considered normal.


  • Thanks for your reply. I think it's level 1 but bordering on to level 2. My job was in cleaning which I suppose may something to do with the reaction my bosses had to it. x

  • Being in the cleaning sector there are a lot of chemicals being used which will aggravate your condition, they are probably just covering their backs knowing that COPD has no cure only treatment therefore it isn't going to get better .... then you get to start calling in sick ... which you will do of course so better to employ somebody in better health.

  • Hi Tony,

    It's more involved than the level of COPD that you have. In your case, from what you say, your employment would be required to consider "reasonable adjustments" under the Equalities Act rather than/before such a health-dismissal. I would contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureau - or, even better, your union rep. Some of the following links may be helpful:

    All the best,


  • Many thanks Steph. Much appreciated. I will look into the links you have provided.

  • Hi did your employer ask specifically about COPD? In which case you should answer truthfully, I couldn't advise you to lie but I probably would. If they just asked if you had any medical problems which could impact on your work say no. You wouldn't be applying if you didn't think you could do the job.

    In my experience most employers only ask the latter question so there is plenty of hope out there that you will get another job. It's never wise to tell prospective employers about health issues unless you really have to. x

  • Many thanks coughalot2. Very useful.x

  • In the UK, an employment recruiter is not allowed to ask any question about a person's health/disability. There are some specific questions that an employer may ask but only after the person is employed and only in certain circumstances. Another link to look at:

    Also, a person does not have to declare their disability. Moreover, even they don't declare it, that person's employer found to be in contravention of the Equalities Act by a Tribunal if they unreasonably do not acknowledge there could be a disability (or something like that - it's a little complicated).


  • Not declaring your disability is a very dangerous path to tread. You could be found guilty of an offence under the Health and Safety at work act if things went wrong. The onus is for everyone to be responsible for Health and Safety and if your company is unaware of your condition, they cannot make sound judgement.

    It shall be the duty of every employee while at work—


    to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work; and



    as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with him so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with.

    How can you comply with the act if you do not declare a medical condition?

  • I agree it is important to declare it. I was diagnosed having COPD at the start of my job and I literally had an exacerbation just before I started. I did declare it but to my cost with this company. However, I'm now thinking maybe it was just as well. This company reminds me of the Nazis!

  • Don't give will find a decent employer.

  • Thanks Steph for your advice. Very useful

  • One of the problems with not telling them is that they could say that you lied to get the job that you were not capable of doing? I stated I had lung and heart conditions that were under control with tablets etc. However when I had lung failure and was off work for 5.5 months they were going to give me a written warning. I got the equality commission on to this and would of backed me if they did issues the warning as I had kept them informed of my condition before employment.

    The worst part of employment law is there are so many rules and some of them only come into play after a set time. ACAS are a great source of info.

  • Would have thought that would have caused further problems when he gets worse and needs time off and they ask for a Doctors report, they will find out that he lied ... not wise I don't think x

  • 81% is normal. Don't see the issue.

    I have seen this before, just diagnosed with mild COPD and feel the need inform others for whatever reason. It's part of the emotional turmoil that accompanies this situation. I was there myself, I told the work occupational nurse years back I was suffering with an incurable lung condition. Luckily she never pursued it, they thought I was having a breakdown (not far wrong) and gave me three weeks off ;) That company (sadly, due to board level greed) went out of business and I left when everyone else did.

    Now I tell employers and anyone with even a remote interest including my children I have a touch of asthma. I do better than a lot of asthmatics.

    With mild COPD you should not be at a disadvantage.

    I see "healthy" 20 stone diabetic, smokers with high cholesterol at my workplace. Nobody sees them as a liability.

    If I said I had COPD discounting I'm fairly fit with an ideal BMI & a non smoker they'd be packing me off to see the company doctor for an evaluation.

  • Thanks for the informative reply. Much appreciated.

  • Yes. I know exactly what you mean. UP until recently I was at the gym at least 3 times a week, fitter and lighter than most people I used to work with but was still asked if I should be working! I left work many years ago to look after elderly parents and since then have also been looking after an elderly Aunt and Uncle but I felt I was discriminated against when you look at other people less healthy than you are through their own choice sometimes and you get "picked on" because you have a "label"

  • As a cleaner you could be at a greater risk due to the chemical fumes than a fit person but then as you say they were aware enough to be supplying masks.

  • Thanks RibvanRey.

  • & btw it sounds like they did you a favour. Do you want to be exposed to chemicals?

  • I will carefully choose what type of job I do in the future. Thanks I agree they have done me a favour.

  • I think you do have grounds for complaint. The reason they gave for getting rid of you is nonsense.

    I am due to start work in a new job next month. Was very worried about occupational health questions but in the event was fine. I was honest on form - been a case where person didn't disclose mental health issues and they lost their claim for unfair dismissal!

    Occ health person very limited understanding and just interested if I was on oxygen (no). Not interested in anything else which was good for me!

  • I can't say who my employers were but they were a very powerful company with solicitors working for them. On the paltry wage I was getting, it would not be worth me sueing them. I was also not in a trade union. Glad you've got a job. I have been honest as well. Some companies are nicer than other.

  • I always told people I had asthma quite often there is a place for it on an application form - worded "Do you have any health problems you would like us to know about?" but I found quite often this wan't passed on to my bosses - even though they were often the ones doing the recruiting. After many years at my last job I was ill for a few weeks with constant infections and my bosses didn't even know - hadn't read in my application form that I had asthma. After that they were so helpful - until one boss left and the other retired.

  • Glad things got better with your job

  • Hi Tony

    sorry to hear what has happened to you it doesn't sound very fair I also work for domestic services and have copd at 89% they are very understanding to my condition maybe you should get some advice from c a b

    I know a few people who are working with less lung function that you so don't give up on finding work you know your limits so go for it

    good luck x

  • Thanks Mollie. I appreciate your support. x

  • Looking for work...make an appointment with the disability advisor at your local job centre.

  • Thanks CornishBrian. Good idea.

  • That is disgusting.

  • I agree but thanks for your comments freefaller. It's nice to know other people care and there are some people in this world who are decent human beings.

  • hi I have very severe copd and emphysema my fev1 is 18%, I still work but just part time now, im a supervisor with a cleaning company, so I don't have do much cleaning mainly just organising and checking things, but a lot of walking. if your fev1 is 81% I wouldn't think you would need tell any employer unless it was really affecting you.



    Give ACAS a call they are a great help a lot of the time and know the Employment law backwards.

  • I work on the principle that you wouldn't go for a job unless you know you are capable of doing it, so unless you are asked a direct question such as do you have depression etc. I would say no. Usually the questions is framed like 'Do you have a disability that you think could affect your work?' If you think the answer is no then you would answer that. If it came up in the future then you are not lying but using your own judgement based on what the job entails.

    If you say yes then why would you go for the job in the first place? A good example is me going for a job in a shop where I would be standing on my feet all day. As I suffer from a bad back I wouldn't do it, so I look for jobs such as admin where I can sit down. It's commonsense really. Obviously it does mean that if I was signing on it would limit the type of job I could go for, but a letter from your doctor stating disability etc. would stop the jobcentre from sending you for unsuitable jobs. I know because I did this when I was signing on. x

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