Immunodeficiency and your employment rights – FAQs

If you have an immunodeficiency here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your rights to time off for treatment, telling your employer about your condition, taking sick leave and requesting flexible working to accommodate your health needs.

You can also download our information leaflet on ‘Your Employment Rights’.

If you have an immune deficiency disorder then you will be covered by the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. This doesn’t mean you need to consider yourself to be “disabled”, it just means that you have protection from unfair treatment relating to your medical condition.

Even if your disorder is well managed and does not often impact on your daily life, the fact that without medication you would otherwise be unwell means that you have protection under the law.

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It is against the law for employers to discriminate against you (directly or indirectly) because of a disability. This includes areas such as recruitment, pay, redundancy and dismissal.

Your employer also has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace.

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Under the Equality Act, your employer must make reasonable adjustments to your work practice or workplace if you need them to help manage your condition.

The keyword is “reasonable” and this is open to debate, but generally speaking, the following may be reasonable depending on your role in the company:

  • changing your working hours to fit around your treatment
  • helping with transport to and from work
  • allowing you to have extra breaks during the working day (these may be paid or unpaid at your employer’s discretion)
  • allowing you to work from home if this fits with your role for all or some of the week.

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Depending on your role, this would almost certainly count as a reasonable adjustment. You may need ad hoc time off, or more regular appointments, but either way you should usually be allowed to take time off work to attend. It is totally up to your employer and the policies within your company whether this is paid or unpaid time (or a mixture of both) – there is no right to paid time off to attend medical appointments.

If you need to have regular home therapy during your working week, then it is often best to request a permanent change to your working hours (this may be counted as a reasonable adjustment in some cases).

If the home therapy is more ad hoc, then time off would still usually be counted as a reasonable adjustment, as long as you can show that you cannot have the home therapy at another time e.g. evenings or weekends when you don’t work. As with medical appointments, your employer is not required to pay you during this time.

It depends on the type of work you do. If you can do all or some of your work from home (e.g. project work and you can have access to work systems from home) then this may be a reasonable adjustment. However, for other jobs (e.g. customer-facing) this may not be possible. In this case, you should discuss other possible reasonable adjustments with your employer, e.g. reducing your hours, or changing your commuting time.

If you are not asked directly (e.g. on an application form) and you would prefer not to tell your employer then that is totally up to you. However, if you think you may need reasonable adjustments or some support with attending medical appointments etc, then it is often best to be open and honest with your employer.

If your employer asks you directly, either at application stage or afterwards, then you need to be open and honest about your condition and its potential impact on your work/attendance. Your employer cannot discriminate against you for having a health condition/disability, but may need to know so that they can consider any adjustments you may need.

If your employer is considering disciplinary action or even dismissal relating to the amount of absence you have taken, then you should remind them that any absence relating to your disability (medical condition) needs to be treated separately from other absence.

For example, if your company’s policy is that after 3 episodes of absence you are given a written warning, then this should not normally apply in your case. This is because due to the nature of immune deficiency disorders, you are likely to have more sickness absence than average, and as this is caused by your disability it should not be counted in the same way. An employer may be directly discriminating against you if they decide to dismiss you because of the amount of sickness absence you have taken because of your disability.

It is always best to try to resolve issues internally with your employer, and you are able to appeal and/or raise a grievance if you think you have been treated unfairly.
Where dismissal is being considered, get advice from your Union, a employment lawyer, or Immunodeficiency UK. If you are dismissed as a result of your disability then you may wish to consider taking your case to an Employment Tribunal.

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Some employers may use sickness records as a factor in deciding whom to make redundant from a group of employees (although this should not be the only factor considered). If they choose to use sickness absence as a selection criterion for redundancy, then they should not count any absence linked to your disability.

As it will naturally be difficult to confirm which of your sickness absences are linked to your condition, and which may have happened anyway, the most reasonable course of action is to adjust your sickness record for the redundancy process, to the average sickness absence level within your company. This will mean you will not suffer any detriment because of higher absence, and will create a more level playing field.

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Yes. (See also – “Is my condition considered a disability?”). It is against the law for a child’s school to treat them unfavourably because of their disability. This means that a child should not be penalised in any way for having to take extra time off school for sickness absence or to attend medical appointments (e.g. if attendance awards are given, the school should only count absence unrelated to the child’s disability).

The school also has to make reasonable adjustments for example to premises e.g. providing a ramp, or to procedures within the school day e.g. providing extra breaks if needed.

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