3 things to know for taking time off work due to disability

Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to approach discussing reasonable adjustments with a new employer if you potentially need regular time off due to disability. 

Flexible Working

If your employer knows that you are disabled, flexible working patterns could count as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.

Flexible working means arranging your work in a way that suits your needs. This could involve having flexible start and finish times, being able to work from home occasionally, changing some of the work in your role, or reducing your hours.

If flexible working is reasonable and necessary for you to do the role, employers have to agree to it. However, this does not necessarily mean that employers will agree to every single request, as what is classed as ‘reasonable’ depends on what you need and the nature of the job you will do.

It is often helpful for the employer, and therefore make the process easier, if you are clear upfront about what flexible working would mean in your circumstances. If you are unsure about this, it can be helpful to –

  • make a list of adjustments you received at university
  • use the job description to think about what a ‘typical’ day in the job would be like
  • thinking about these, what flexible arrangements would help you?

Once you started the job, it may be worth periodically reviewing flexible working arrangements to ensure they are still working well for you, for example if you condition changes.

Time off for appointments

If you need regular time off for medical or hospital appointments (such as treatment or therapy) because of a disability, this too could count as a reasonable adjustment.

Be clear to your employer about how regular your appointments are and any associated considerations. If your employer doesn’t know you are disabled then they may not allow you to take time off for medical appointments.

Your employer may have a ‘disability leave’ policy to cover this. Speak to Human Resources to find out.

Unplanned time off (such as sickness)

Every employer has their own sickness policy; some may treat sickness differently if it’s related to disability, but many do not. It is worth checking the organisation’s sickness policy if you are concerned that your disability may cause you to have unplanned days absence from work – for example how many days sickness you are allowed and what happens when you take them (such as return to work meetings and disciplinary meetings). If you cannot find the sickness policy at this stage, speak to HR for a copy.

If you need to take time off because of your disability often it is better to let an employer know rather than let them assume it is because you are ill, as they will be better placed to support you.  If you need reasonable adjustments when you go back to work, tell your employer that your absence is disability-related first.


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