You may think of yourself as ill rather than disabled but having a long-term fluctuating illness which adversely affects daily life is classified as a disability under the Equality Act.
The Equality Act 2010 aims to protect people who have a disability, from discrimination (both direct and indirect) in the workplace.
Disclosing a disability lets employers know they need to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process or to support a disabled person in work.
Disabled people and their employers are entitled to apply for help from the Government through Access to Work.
They are also entitled to apply for disability benefits.
For more information about employment and M.E., please download our booklet, M.E. and work (this is being revised as part of our SEE M.E. project and an updated version will be available in October 2016).
Your legal rights as an employee include your standard contractual obligations (what it says in your job offer, contract and staff handbook) – plus the additional rights people with long-term fluctuating conditions should have according to the Equality Act 2010.
The Equality Act incorporates and builds upon the Disability Discrimination Act and nine other pieces of equality legislation.
It is illegal to discriminate against a person who has a long-term fluctuating illness and employers have a duty to consider making reasonable adjustments to support such an employee or potential employee, or they may be liable under anti-discrimination legislation.
If you are the victim of discrimination at work, or unfair redundancy or dismissal, you may take your claim to an employment tribunal.
Under the Equality Act 2010, someone who has “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability of an employee to carry out normal day-to-day activities” – including a long-term fluctuating condition - is defined as disabled.
Under this Act, as under the Disability Discrimination Act, your employer should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the workplace and to working practices, so that you (as a disabled employee or job applicant) are not at a disadvantage.
Adjustments might include:
The earlier such adjustments are made, the easier it could be for you to mange work alongside your symptoms and the better your chances of staying in work.
Advice and financial help may be available through the Access to Work Programme. Find out more at your local Jobcentre Plus.
Once you are in work, if you have to take prolonged sickness absence, you may have to arrange a phased return to work.
Costs of special equipment, adapting premises and other support for a disabled worker may be reclaimed if that support is arranged and agreed through the Access to Work programme.
Access to Work provides practical advice and financial support to help overcome the barriers to work experienced by people who have long term health problems.
The programme is flexible to try and meet the needs of the employee and their job.
Contact the Disability Employment Adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus office or go to Gov.uk for advice in England, Scotland or Wales or NI Direct for Northern Ireland.
If you have more complex disability needs, they may recommend another programme, Work Choice.