One in nine people with asthma have lost their job, or worry they will lose their job, because of their condition.
A survey of more than 12,800 people by charity Asthma UK has revealed the debilitating effects the condition can have on many employees, with one in 10 admitting that they had received a warning or had been disciplined at work for reasons linked to their asthma.
Employees with asthma
Triggers such as industrial or wood dusts, chemical fumes, cleaning products pollution, mould and stress meant that more than a third of employees had an asthma attack at work.
Many workers chose to hide their asthma from their employer – three in 10 said they did so because they were worried about the effect it might have on their career prospects.
Sarah, a nurse, told the charity that she nearly lost her previous job as a result of not telling her employer or colleagues about her condition. Because she had taken significant time off sick, she was taken through all the stages of the organisation’s sickness process and almost lost her job.
She said: “There is so little knowledge of severe asthma and the debilitating impact it can have on people’s health and working lives. In my previous job it took me a long time to persuade colleagues that I wasn’t pretending to be ill, but I was genuinely sick, in hospital every time I was off. I found the whole process demoralising, especially because I was doing everything I possibly could to be at work.
“My determination not to be seen as ill worked against me as I would often force myself to work when in reality I was really struggling with my asthma.”
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK, said employers and employees should feel able to have open conversations with about asthma and what triggers it.
“It’s deeply concerning that people have lost or are worried about losing their job because of their asthma,” he said. “This research shows just how difficult it can be for people to talk about asthma in the workplace. Fear of judgement, shame and a general lack of understanding all fuel the stigma that can sometimes surround the condition.”