Choosing a career
Thanks to the treatment options available in the UK, young people with a bleeding disorder now have a greater array of career choices than ever before. Now that preventative treatment (prophylaxis) is the norm for those who need it, many working roles and environments that were off-limits a generation ago are wide open to today’s generation of young people.
Young people today are being inspired to take on all sorts of careers, despite their bleeding disorder. Our members have various roles, including very physical ones: members with severe haemophilia A have told us they work in construction, heavy plant machinery, retail, healthcare, catering, farming and engineering. Our current youth ambassadors work as a management accountant, new business director, junior account executive, business support administrator, auditor, swimming coach, product evangelist, cricket coach, teacher and laboratory resource coordinator.
Having a medical condition brings risks; you don’t want to take on a physically demanding role that causes you to have more bleeds. Think about if the work is physically demanding and will put more stress on your joints, such as jobs that involve a lot of heavy lifting or bending. It’s important to think carefully about how your bleeding disorder may affect your chosen career and vice-versa, not just now but in the years to come.
Depending on the severity of your condition and how it affects your day to day life, there may be barriers to pursuing certain career paths, particularly for ‘public service’ roles such as the armed forces or emergency services.
What are my career choices?
Having a medical condition brings risks. Some institutions and professions still limited access to some career paths by restrictive recruitment requirements, including the armed forces, police, frontline prison service, airline pilot, or lifeboat volunteer.
You will need to think laterally; we have members working within the prison service as a facilities manager and the fire service in an office/risk management role. These employers decide on a case by case basis, rather than having a blanket exclusion policy, as with the armed forces.
How does the law help me?
While we still hear stories of discrimination and prejudice due to misconceptions, lack of awareness or poor HR employment practices, things are getting better. Employer attitudes and workplace cultures are gradually becoming more flexible, supported by changes in employment law in recent decades. Workplace culture is changing to offer more flexibility for those affected by a medical condition or caring responsibilities.
It’s against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of a disability. The Equality Act 2010 protects you and covers areas including:
- application forms
- interview arrangements
- aptitude or proficiency tests
- job offers
- terms of employment, including pay
- promotion, transfer and training opportunities
- dismissal or redundancy
- discipline and grievances
- Reasonable adjustments in the workplace
An employer recruiting staff may make limited enquiries about your health or disability.
You can only be asked about your health or disability:
- to help decide if you can carry out a task that is an essential part of the work
- to help find out if you can take part in an interview
- to help decide if the interviewers need to make reasonable adjustments for you in a selection process
- to help monitoring
- if they want to increase the number of disabled people they employ
- if they need to know for the purposes of national security checks
You may be asked whether you have a health condition or disability on an application form or in an interview. It would be best if you thought about whether the question is allowed to be asked at that stage of recruitment.
Should I tell my employer about my bleeding disorder?
Whether or not you tell an employer about a bleeding disorder is a personal choice, though not doing so may not be in the employees best interest. For example, suppose someone has trouble with their job or is treated unfavourably. In that case, it can be harder to solve the problem or make a formal complaint as the employer can claim they don’t know about the disability. On the other hand, if an employer knows about someone’s disability, then under the Equality Act, they must make a reasonable adjustment. Keeping your disorder a secret from your employer may cause you great stress, so you will need to think about what is right for you.
Before you disclose at work, it’s essential to judge what response you think your employer will have. Before you tell people at work, find out what you can about workplace policies and attitudes. You could consider getting help from your haemophilia centre if you think your employer will react negatively. It might also be helpful to prepare by getting experienced advice from an employment law specialist, as this might help you avoid a negative situation.
Suppose your bleeding disorder does not impact your work; in that case, you may prefer to take your time and think carefully before you tell your employer or workmates. Remember, once you have told people, you can’t take it back, and you will have little control over who they tell.
Reasonable adjustments in the workplace
An employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace. For example, adjusting your working hours or providing you with a special piece of equipment to help you do the job.
Can I request a flexible working pattern?
All workers have the right to request a flexible working pattern once they’ve been with their employer for 26 weeks, regardless of their circumstances. This should make it easier to request part-time or variable hours to fit with a treatment regime or caring responsibilities. Employers don’t have to say yes, but they must act reasonably in considering your request. They can say yes, try it for a trial period and then still say no, so it’s important to be realistic about the possibilities. Employers must have a good business reason for saying no, but for smaller employers, this might be that it’s simply not affordable.
Employees can help by being flexible, too; compromising on their ideal working pattern might enable the employer to agree to an arrangement that suits everyone. The same applies on an ongoing basis; employers don’t have to give someone a day off to go to a medical appointment, but offering to do another shift or be on a backup rota for someone else may help.
If you feel your employer is treating you unfairly or unreasonably excluded from your job, you should contact your human resources department (HR department) to discuss.
Disclaimer: Some of the content of this page has been provided by GOV.UK and is for general information only. It is subject to change without notice.