Work

If you have just been diagnosed, or if you are very unwell, you might feel you will never be able to go back to work. But once you are on the right treatments you are likely to feel much better and be able to do much more.

Many patients go back to the jobs they did before. But continuing health problems mean some cannot. Some change to more suitable jobs – perhaps less physically demanding. Some take early retirement.

When you are thinking about returning to work, is it important to consider:

  • the type of cardiomyopathy you have and whether your condition is stable
  • your treatment and how long it will take you to recover
  • is your work particularly stressful? For, instance, are there demanding deadlines?
  • some jobs, such as being in the armed forces or an airline pilot, are ruled out
  • jobs involving heavy lifting, strenuous activity or operating heavy equipment might be a problem
  • shift work might cause extra stress or tiredness. So can a long commute
  • handling electrical, specialist equipment or magnets might have implications for people with a internal defibrillator (ICD)
  • do you need a driving licence for your job? For more details about driving restrictions, see driving
  • are there specific regulations or health checks that could be an issue?

You may have decided to return to work. Before resuming employment you should:

  • consult your GP
  • get advice from your company’s occupational health department
  • consult your cardiologist and nurse specialist about when you should return
  • clarify if there are any restrictions on your driving licence
  • discuss returning to work with your employer. A phased return may be best
  • ask to return to light or less challenging duties initially
  • ensure you will get all the breaks you are entitled to
  • discuss additional rest periods if necessary
  • try to avoid peak-hour travel to and from work
  • try to escape stressful deadlines.
  • Talk to you employer

Talking to your employer about your specific circumstances

  • The Equality Act 2010 protects people in England, Wales and Scotland with a disability at work. ‘Disability’ includes a physical impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to perform normal day-to-day activities
  • Talk openly with your manager. If your employer has an occupational health department or human resources experts, make sure they are involved. You should get a fair and supportive medical assessment and accurate advice
  • Recommendations from occupational health advisers can include reducing driving, changing shift patterns, ensuring time off for medical appointments and changing heavy manual work to something lighter
  • Recommendations such as these can enable people with cardiomyopathy to stay in work and help employers benefit from their contributions
  • If you feel that you are being discriminated against at work, talk to your manager or human resources representative. Ask about referral to the occupational health department, if there is one. A doctor might be able to advise the employer
  • If you cannot resolve the issue, you might want to seek legal advice, possibly via your trade union. The Citizens Advice Bureau and Cardiomyopathy UK might also be able to offer advice.


Applying for jobs

If you are applying for work, a prospective employer cannot ask you about your health before deciding whether to offer work, unless they can prove they’re doing so to check whether you can carry out essential tasks (such as heavy lifting for a removals company).

 They can also ask about health issues to monitor diversity.

They cannot ask you how much time you have taken off work in your previous jobs. But they can ask relevant questions – such as access requirements – when arranging job interviews.

Occupational health adviser Elaine Boaler has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, here she shares her own experience of working with cardiomyopathy