Returning to work and your rights

The Equality Act 2010 protects people in England, Wales and Scotland with a disability at work. If you live in the European Union, you can read further information here

Making Changes

Consult your GP and your Cardiologist/Specialist Nurse about when you should return to work. Get advice from your company's occupational health department (if they have one) and talk to your employer to see what adjustments could be made for you. This could be changing working hours to avoid rush hour traffic, taking regular breaks or having a 'phased' return to work with a lighter workload. 

Finding a good work/life balance

  • Is your job stressful? Do you have demanding deadlines that could impact on your health? 
  • Do you work shifts? Shift work might cause extra stress on the body or tiredness. 
  • Do you have to travel far to get to your place of work?

Certain job requirements

  • Some jobs, such as being in the Armed Forces or working as an Airline Pilot, could no longer be allowed. 
  • Do you need a driving licence to be able to work?
  • Are there any specific regulations in your workplace around health checks that could be an issue?
  • Jobs involving heavy lifting, strenuous activity or operating heavy equipment might be a problem. So could handling electrical, specialist equipment or magnets, especially if you have a device fitted internal defibrillator (ICD)

Deciding on a different job

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 ask about health issues to monitor diversity, but they cannot ask you how much time you have taken off work in your previous jobs. When arranging job interviews, they are able to ask questions around access requirements. 

Your Rights

‘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 law protects people with certain ‘protected characteristics’ from being discriminated against or treated unfairly. There are nine protected characteristics, including disability. The Act gives protection in various areas, such as employment, education, public services and in shops, restaurants and various other settings.  

What are the ‘protected characteristics’? 

  • age 
  • disability
  • gender 
  • gender reassignment
  • marital status (including civil partnerships)
  • pregnant and maternity
  • race (including colour and nationality)
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation.

Where does The Equality Act apply?

The Act gives protection in various areas, such as: 

  • in employment (or when applying for work); 
  • in educational settings (at any age); 
  • in using public services, such as medical settings, transport or services from local authorities 
  • when using shops and restaurants, leisure facilities, housing, and in banking and financial services. 

What is ‘discrimination’? 

Discrimination means treating someone in a way that is unfair or puts them at a disadvantage, because of a protected characteristic. Some people may need different treatment in order to be treated equally. There are different types of discrimination, including: 

  • Direct discrimination - treating someone with protected characteristics less well than someone without a protected characteristic. 
  • Indirect discrimination - applying a condition or rule to everyone which puts someone with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage. 
  • Perceived discrimination - discriminated against someone on the assumption that they have a protected characteristic. 
  • Harassment (treating someone with a protected characteristic in a humiliating or offensive way) and Victimisation (treating someone unfairly because they make a complaint of discrimination). 
  • There is a further type of discrimination called ‘Associative discrimination’. This is when someone is treated unfairly because they are associated with (or connected to) someone with a protected characteristic. 

For example: 

an employer cannot refuse to employ you, or treat you less well than other employees, because you have caring responsibilities; or 

a shop or restaurant cannot refuse to serve you, or give you poor service, because you are with someone with a disability.