Long term health conditions

Going to work

When looking for work people felt concerned about their chances of finding the right kind of work. For some, finding the right job had been a case of trial and error. Being able to cope with a job could be difficult for  people with certain chronic conditions, as was knowing where to get help and advice if things didn't work out.

Those who live with a chronic (long-term) illness described how bouts of illness meant that they had missed out on training and work experience. They know employers should give them the same chances as others and they want to be independent, but some found they had to keep trying to achieve what they wanted. 

Young people told us about both their good and bad experiences of what it was like to work and manage a long-term condition. Several of them had found good ways to overcome some of the difficulties they had at work whenever they felt ill or had to take time off.

Good experiences at work

Bad experiences at work

Making career choices

Several young people said they worried that they might not get promotion at work or be given more responsibility because of their sickness record. Inevitably some had taken time off work to go to hospital for treatments or checkups. Others said they had days when they didn't feel well enough to leave home and make the journey to work. 

It could take time to find the sort of organisation that was sympathetic to people with long-term conditions, but those who'd done so felt good about it. 

Some people had found ways of managing both the demands of the job and also having a bad day or days. One young woman with scoliosis, copies her work onto a memory stick if she feels she might be heading for a bad day, so that she has the option of doing some work from home. 

Based on their own experiences, young people felt it was important to be realistic about what you can and can't do in the way of work, rather than setting your heart on the kind of job that would be impossible. One woman with cystic fibrosis said she realised that being a journalist or a detective would have been out of the question as she simply couldn't have coped with the long-hours and travel. 

Having a long-term condition has prevented some young people that we talked to from taking up a particular career. Several had to make a compromise in their choice of work.

Several young people we talked to had seen a careers advisor, used the internet to find out more about the company and its policies about disability, found out about their rights and benefit entitlements, and had contacted relevant charities for advice. 

One young woman with cystic fibrosis said that it was depressing to be told about all the jobs she couldn't do - she wanted was information about those she could do.

What should you say about your medication and condition when you apply for work?

Different views were expressed about the need to tell employers about your medical condition. Many said that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of a health condition; they are bound by law to give equality of opportunity and consider all applications with the right qualifications and experience. 


Giving up work because of illness

Several young people said they had to give up work because their condition had got worse. For example one young woman found her drugs no longer controlled her pain. Another young woman with sickle cell went through a period of being frequently ill and was having to take time off work in order to prevent having a crisis and ending up in hospital. Both these young people thought that they were letting their employers down, and they felt very bad about it. Several of those who had given up work because of illness said that they missed the money. Many explained how much they disliked having to depend on benefits and/or their parents. 

Last reviewed May 2014.

Last updated February 2012.

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