Employment and Inflammatory Bowel Disease


CD and UC are chronic diseases, which flare up from time to time, but with appropriate treatment, people can remain well for long periods. Therefore, there is no reason why a person with such a condition cannot enjoy full employment. However, there are certain jobs which would be less suitable for a person with chronic diarrhoea.

Finding a suitable job

You might say that a suitable job for an employee with inflammatory bowel disease would be one which could provide quick and easy access to a toilet. Therefore, employment as a pilot, train/bus driver, motorcycle courier or possibly a construction worker would be most unsuitable.

Most jobs are offered subject to a medical examination and it is wise to be honest at the beginning, gaining the sympathy and understanding of an employer rather than face dismissal (or legal action) if the situation becomes difficult later. A letter from the GP may be required confirming ability to work.

Honesty and openness towards colleagues can avoid the necessity for secrecy over taking medicines, running to the toilet or having stomach pains. The more they know and understand, the more helpful people will be.

Employees' rights

Most people with inflammatory bowel disease enjoy a good working life and all the benefits of the job that a person without the disease does. However, it is important to be aware of your rights, i.e.
  • Sick leave and payment
  • Pension rights
  • Job security

If it becomes obvious that you are being discriminated against because of your condition, or any other reason, you should speak to your Personnel Officer or equivalent. Problems may develop through lack of understanding of the disease on your employer's part and presenting him with information leaflets or a letter from the doctor may ease the situation. If the situation does not resolve itself, you should consult your union representative or contact the Department of Employment. The Citizens' Advice Bureau may also be able to offer help.

Employers' rights

An employer has the right to expect a job of work from any employee and if that condition is not fulfilled, he may legally terminate the contract. It therefore pays to be honest at the beginning as your employer cannot be expected to make allowances if he is unaware of your condition. Equally, he might not have employed you at all if he had considered the job unsuitable for you. Having inflammatory bowel disease should not prevent you from being successful at work or mean that you are less valuable to an employer.

There are bound to be problems that arise from time to time, but understanding and tolerance from both parties should ensure a smooth working relationship.