Employment and disclosure - CF Buzz

Balancing act

Having cystic fibrosis (CF) is all about finding a balance in many parts of life.

For people with CF, finding and keeping a job can be an especially tricky balance; finding a suitable job, finding a job with enough flexibility to accommodate treatment, and the possibility of cutting back hours if necessary. It’s also important to think about the financial and lifestyle impacts of giving up work, if necessary.

For these reasons, it is very important for people with CF to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and their employers’ obligations to try to keep them in the workforce.

It’s also important for people with chronic illness to be aware of their superannuation and insurance rights – in particular, disability benefits which can be claimed when they stop work for health reasons. Have a read of the Superannuation and Insurance page for more information.


Employment law

Employers must take reasonable steps to accommodate their employees’ disabilities.

Examples include:

  • Changing your workstation by providing a supportive chair, improving air-conditioning or moving onto the ground floor
  • Allowing you to take time off work to get medical treatment
  • Changing your work duties in some circumstances

Legally your employer doesn’t have to offer you a different job although they can’t terminate your employment for at least three months.

Many employers will know very little about CF and will be happy to help if you tell them about the challenges and treatment requirements. However, if your employer won’t help, you might have a legal claim.

Under anti-discrimination laws or workplace relations laws, your employer may be forced to alter your working conditions or pay you compensation.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation like this in your workplace, it’s best to seek the advice of an employment lawyer.


Starting work

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t have to tell your employer about your condition unless it’s an occupational health and safety risk, and might hinder your ability to do your job.

Your employer can’t force you to see their doctor or sign authorities to get reports from your doctors. However, there are some exceptions such as for Workers Compensation claims.

Generally though, you will most likely be better off telling your employer, and helping them understand what CF is. It may help explain absences or any problems you are having performing your work and may result in changes to your work which will mean you can continue to work productively.

It’s important to consider how you think your employer will react, and maybe discuss it with your doctor, union or state CF organisation first.

You might also be asked about health problems when joining a new employment superannuation fund or insurance. However, most funds will offer some form of default disability cover even if you have a pre-existing condition.

If you don’t get a job or insurance cover because of your disability, you might have a discrimination claim. Keep in mind that if you were to disclose your condition on your CV, or during an interview process it may be very difficult to prove you have been discriminated against if you don’t get the job.


Leaving work

If you are considering giving up work, you might be eligible for employment termination payments such as redundancy benefits, payment in lieu of notice or an ex gratia lump sum.

The amount you get paid may depend on why you leave work and whether it’s voluntary or not. It might also change the amount of tax you pay. There are also Centrelink benefits available to help the financial burden. CF social workers can help you with this process, you can call them on (02) 8732 5725.

Don’t resign or sign anything before getting advice. If you have already left work, get advice straight away.


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