Starting work with congenital heart disease

People with a heart condition may be starting a job, or going off to university or college  When you have an idea about the type of work or course you want to do you talk to your cardiologist or specialist cardiac nurse to help you think through any issues or if doing this job could affect your condition.

Employment rights

It’s worth getting to know your rights as an employee or student. There are laws and rules to protect you from discrimination, for example if you need to take sick leave. This will be in your contract, so don’t sign anything until you’ve read it through properly, and seek advice if necessary.

Put simply, discrimination means treating someone worse than other people for some reason. You have rights not to be treated worse than other people at work because of your heart condition. The Equality Act 2010 is the main legal protection for anyone with a health condition that has an impact on their normal day-to-day activities. This includes heart conditions, or other medical conditions, learning difficulties or mental illnesses and conditions.

Under the Act, employers aren’t allowed to ask you any health questions before giving you the job unless they’ve already made a ‘conditional’ offer which is subject to satisfactory health checks, or in certain jobs like a construction worker, where they need to know if you’re able to lift heavy goods.

The main thing is that employers can’t ask these questions out of curiosity – there has to be a good reason. If the employer doesn’t offer you the job as a result of these health checks or any answers you give to health questions, they need to tread carefully. Any decision could be subject to challenge by you on the grounds of discrimination.

If you know your heart condition will affect your ability to work on a particular job, it’s worth raising this with the employer before you start, But it’s ultimately up to you what you want to tell your interviewer, and you should expect to be treated as fairly as anyone else.