Work and money when you have severe asthma

Find out about your rights at work and in-work benefits you are entitled to

Health advice > Severe asthma > Making life easier with severe asthma 

Your rights at work

People with severe asthma can find that they need time off for emergencies, hospital appointments or when symptoms are bad. The law is varied on these issues:

Time off for GP or hospital appointments

Your employer may give you time off for hospital and GP appointments but legally they don’t have to do so. You may for instance be asked to book these appointments outside of working hours or make up the time later.

Sick leave and statutory sick pay

You are entitled to have time off for sickness If you are employed and earn above a certain amount. you are entitled to statutory sick pay after four or more days of being off sick . You cannot get less than the statutory sick pay but check your contract because your employer may pay you more than the statutory amount.   SSP is paid for up to 28 weeks. If you are still off sick after 28 weeks you can apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

If your child has severe asthma

If your child has severe asthma, you are entitled to time off when there is an emergency such as an asthma attack or going to A&E . If your child has a medical appointment then this depends on your employer.

Your Contract

Make sure you know what your contract says about taking time off work and whether you’ll be paid for it. Your contract of employment may give you more rights than the basic ones. If you do not have a written contract, a verbal agreement can still count. Make sure you keep a note of any verbal agreements you make with your employer.

Don’t work when you are not well

Your symptoms may get worse if you don’t look after yourself properly and you might end up needing even more time off if you try to do too much. You could also be putting yourself at risk of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. It might be helpful to explain this to your employer – tell them that having time off when you first notice your symptoms getting worse can save you having more time off in the future.

Stay in touch

Keep talking to your employer when you’re off sick. It can help them put plans in place because they know what to expect. It can also ease your worries, leaving you to get better. If keeping in touch feels too difficult, you could ask a family member or friend to update your employer instead.

GOV.UK – Statutory Sick pay

GOV.UK – Taking Sick Leave  

Citizens Advice – Time off work

Disability and Severe Asthma

The Equality Act 2010 has replaced the Disability Discrimination Act in England, Scotland and Wales.  In Northern Ireland the Disability Discrimination Act still applies.  The rights for people with disability have not changed and some have been strengthened. To be covered by the Equality Act 2010 you have to show that:

  • you have a physical or mental impairment
  • that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

More information

Citizens Advice – What counts as disability

GOV.UK – Definition of Disability under the Equality Act 2010

Severe Asthma can count as a disability, but you may need to talk to your employer to make sure they understand this is the case.

Making reasonable adjustments at work

Even if you don’t consider yourself disabled, having severe asthma can still mean you may need support or special arrangements in your workplace.

Talk to your employer about support that might help you. Under the Equality Act, reasonable adjustments your employer might make can include:

  • Allowing time off (for assessment or treatment)
  • Making alterations to the workplace – for example, if you have trouble with stairs
  • Changing your duties to ones you can carry out more easily
  • Adjustments to working environments – for example, if your symptoms are triggered by perfume, they could put a ‘no perfume’ policy in place
  • A phased return to work after illness, perhaps working flexible hours or part-time
  • Moving you to a more suitable role

It can feel difficult to explain that your symptoms may get worse and you might need time off for appointments. You might worry that your employer will lose confidence in you and feel that your job won’t be safe. But remember your employer can’t help you properly unless you tell them how your severe asthma affects you. Making reasonable adjustments will benefit them as well as you, as you’re more likely to be able to do your job well if you have the right support in place.

Ask your employer to record disability-related sick leave separately from other sick absences. Disability-related sick leave is protected under the Equality Act 2010, and allowing more days off for disability-related reasons may be counted as a reasonable adjustment . There’s more information about reasonable adjustments on GOV.UK – reasonable adjustments for disabled workers

Discrimination if you have severe asthma

Under the Equality Act, your employer isn’t allowed to pass you over for promotion, dismiss you from your job or not employ you because you have severe asthma. Your employer has to make reasonable adjustments first and then consider switching you to another role in the organisation if that doesn’t help. In reality, though, this doesn’t always happen and people with severe asthma do sometimes experience discrimination at work.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work, or you think you might have been turned down for a job or dismissed because of your severe asthma, you can seek legal advice. If you are in a union, your union representative can help.

More information

Citizens Advice – Discrimination at Work 

Equality Advisory Service  

Disability UK

In Work Benefits

 If you are working and on a low income you may be eligible for Universal Credit or income support.  If your severe asthma makes daily life difficult, such as making it harder to move around, you may also be able to apply for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) even if you are working.  PIP is paid because of how your severe asthma affects you, not because you have severe asthma, so you may you may be asked to see a health professional for an assessment.  

Low income earners can also be eligible for universal credit. If you start earning more money your universal credit payments will go down but if you earn less, it will go up.  If you are getting universal credit payments you might also be able to reduce your council tax and get help with other costs.  

The government’s Money Advisory Service also has advice on how to budget, and help with debt and benefits if you are in or out of work. Citizens Advice also can help with debt, you can call or chat to an advisor online. 

More information

GOV.UK – PIP

Citizens Advice – Benefits

Money Advisory Service

Citizens Advice – Debt and Money

Last updated March 2020

Next review due February 2022