Most people do not have to tell their employer about any medical condition, including liver disease. But there can be advantages to telling them.
Even if you tell your employer about your condition, you do not have to tell everyone you work with. Deciding who to tell will be different for everyone.
Who does have to tell their employer?
For most people this will depend on what your job involves and how your condition is affecting you. The general rule is that you should tell your employer if your condition could cause a safety risk for you, or anyone you work with.
There are also a few specific examples of when you must tell your employer:
If you are a healthcare worker and you have viral hepatitis B or C that is still at a stage where it can be passed on to others.
If you have hepatitis A and your work involves preparing or serving food then you must tell your employer. You must stay off work for 7 days from when your symptoms start.
What are the advantages of telling my employer?
If you tell your employer about your medical condition, they are legally required to make “reasonable adjustments” for you. You can find out more about this in the section on legal rights further down this page.
Some organisations have sickness benefits that go beyond the legal minimum. So it is worth checking your contract or employee handbook to see what is on offer.
What are the disadvantages of telling my employer?
Legally you should not face any disadvantages because of your condition. But we know that sadly this still isn’t the case for everyone. So it is normal to be worried about how people in your workplace will react. We have more information and support for anyone thinking about telling others about their condition here.
You can find out what to do if you think you have been unfairly treated because of your condition further down this page here.
In the UK, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against you because of a disability.
For example, if your employer is making people redundant, they cannot select you just because of a disability. There must be a fair process for all employees.
A disability is classed as a physical or mental health issue that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
This includes all types of cancer and some types of liver disease and its complications eg HE (hepatic encephalopathy). For example, your condition will be considered severe if it means you take much longer than normal to do an everyday task. And long term if it lasts more than 12 months.
This page will give you basic information on your rights in the workplace. You can find more detailed information from ACAS here.
If you tell your employer about your medical condition or disability, then they are legally required to make “reasonable adjustments” so you can do your job.
This could mean making changes to your physical work environment or to your working pattern. The aim is to make sure that it is not harder for you to do your job than it is for someone without your condition.
What does “reasonable” mean?
What is “reasonable” will be different in every case. It will depend on both your needs and your employer’s needs.
Changes to your working pattern
Depending on what you do, requesting a change to your work pattern can be classed as a reasonable adjustment.
For example, if you have a desk-based job you could ask to work from home some of the time.
If you suffer from fatigue more at particular times of the day you could ask to alter your work pattern to allow for this.
If you need to eat several small meals a day, you could have your work pattern adjusted so that you have more, shorter breaks instead of a long lunch break.
Changes to the work environment
There may be some physical changes to your work environment that will make it easier for you to do your job. For example, if you are finding it difficult to use the stairs and there is no lift you could ask to work on the ground floor.
Or you may need a special piece of equipment.
Your employer is allowed to look at how affordable and practical any changes are. For example, a very small organisation may not be able to buy expensive equipment or make changes to a building. But the employer must pay for any changes themselves. They are not allowed to make you pay for any changes.
More help with your rights at work
Union representatives. If you are a member of a union, your union representative can give advice and support your in dealing with your employer.
Staff representatives. Some companies have staff representatives who can help.
Many people with serious liver conditions suffer from fatigue. We all feel tired at times but fatigue is extreme tiredness that does not go away even if you get plenty of rest.
If you are struggling with fatigue at work you could talk to your employer about “reasonable adjustments” that could help. This could mean working from home sometimes so you don’t have to commute. Or changing your working pattern if there are particular times of the day that you find hardest.
Time off for medical appointments.
Your employer does not usually have to give you time off for medical appointments. But if you have a disability or substantial long-term health problem then they must make reasonable adjustments so that you can go to your appointments
Some companies have a policy on time off for appointments. So check your contract or employee handbook. If there is no company policy, you will have to speak to your employer. This could be your manager, or your HR department if you have one.
You may have to use annual leave, unpaid leave or make up the time that you miss.
You are entitled to take time off work if you are ill.
You need to get a “fit note” if you are off for more than 7 days in a row. This includes weekends and non-working days. A fit note might also be called a sick note. You can get one from your:
- GP or hospital doctor
- registered nurse
- occupational therapist
They will have to decide if you are able to work. Fit notes are free if you have been off sick for more than 7 days.
Some employers will also accept documents from other healthcare professionals. You can find out more about this on the government page here.
Many companies have a sick pay policy. You should be able to find this in your contract, employee handbook or by asking your manager or HR team. This is worth doing, as many company sickness benefits are more generous than the government scheme.
If you do not have a company sickness policy, then you can usually claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if:
- You are an employee (you work for someone else and have a contract)
- You have been ill for at least 4 days in a row.
There is also a minimum amount you must be earning on average each week. You can find out the current amount here.
You can get statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. It will be paid to you by your employer in the same way as your usual pay.
If your sick pay is running out
If you have a company sickness policy, this might last less than 28 weeks. In this case you will usually move to statutory sick pay for the remaining time.
If you are still hoping to return to work but need a bit more time off you may be able to use annual leave. You will carry on building up annual leave while you are on sick leave. So you should have some owed to you if you have been off for a long time.
If you are not able to go back to work
Your employer cannot dismiss you just for having a disability or severe medical condition. But they can dismiss you if you are not able to do your job.
Before they do this they must:
- Try to find ways to help you carry on working, including making reasonable adjustments such as changes to your working pattern.
- Give you reasonable time to recover from your condition.
If you are not able to work because of your medical condition, you should be able to claim benefits. This is what benefits are there for. It can take a while for them to come through. So even if you only hope to need them for a short time it is a good idea to apply as soon as possible. You can find out more about benefits here.
The first thing to do is to talk to your employer. If you have an HR department you can also talk to them. Your company may have a “grievance procedure”. If so you will need to go through this before taking the matter further.
If you are a member of a union, you can contact them for help and advice.
You can also find more advice on the ACAS website.
If you have been through company procedures. You can think about taking your employer to an employment tribunal. If you want to do this you must get in touch with ACAS. They will offer to try and settle the dispute through their early conciliation scheme.
You can find out more about employment tribunals on the government website here.
Published: January 2024