The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’ Substantial is defined as minor or trivial, meaning that it may take longer to complete daily activities like washing and dressing. Long-term impairments relate to those that are considered to be persistent, fluctuating or progressive such as; persistent pain, asthma, diabetes or ME/CFS. 

You do not need to have a formal diagnosis of a medical condition to be protected by the Equality Act 2010. However, you may need medical evidence to demonstrate how a physical or mental impairment is impacting your daily activities.

Employers have a duty under the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, to not directly or indirectly, discriminate against an employee because of long-term health condition or disability. The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for those with a disability for the following areas;

  1. application forms
  2. interview arrangements
  3. aptitude or proficiency tests
  4. job offers
  5. terms of employment, including pay
  6. promotion, transfer and training opportunities
  7. dismissal or redundancy
  8. discipline and grievances

Types of Discrimination

  1. Direct discrimination relates to the unfair treatment of an individual because of a disability.
  2. Indirection discrimination may involve imposing rules or policies that apply to all employees, but puts an individual living with a disability at an unfair disadvantage.
  3. Harassment is the unwanted behaviour which may cause you to feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
  4. Victimisation may relate to the unfair treatment of someone who has raised a complaint about discrimination or harassment.

Reasonable Adjustments in the Workplace

Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to support you to remain in employment, by preventing you from being put at an unfair disadvantage. Under the Equality Act 2010 there is legal requirement to make adjustments to the working environment, policies and procedures to promote accessibility for all employees.

Good communication between employers and employees can support an individual to return to or remain in employment. This may also involve communication with an occupational health department or human resources to identify support that can be put in place. When considering what support may be useful, it may be helpful to consider the following discussion points;

  • How your condition affects you?
  • How the symptoms of your condition may impact your job performance, or what tasks may be challenging.
  • Strengths at limitations
  • What adjustments are available?
  • Regular review discussions to ensure adjustments are effective and to identify if any further adjustments are required.

Examples of Reasonable Adjustments

Adjustments may include;

  • Making adjustments to the working environment
  • Altering your job role to enable you to take on lighter or less demanding work. This may involve allocating some working duties to another person.
  • Completing an ergonomic workplace assessment in order to provide assistive equipment, to support you to do your job.
  • Adjusting working hours, allowing flexible hours or time working from home if possible.
  • Allowing you to take time off from work for medical appointments.
  • Adjusting performance targets. Considering reducing the workload to reduce unnecessary pressure. 
  • Taking regular breaks during the working day. A full lunch break away from the working environment might be helpful. Short and frequent breaks e.g. to make a hot drink, may be useful to support you to reposition. This may also increase work productivity.
  • Training in other working roles and regular support.
  • Offering opportunities for you to engage a variety of tasks to ensure you are able to change position and pace yourself to balance your energy levels. 
  • Graded return to work following a period of sickness absence, which may involve reduced working hours building to full-time.

Pacing in the Workplace

Being in employment can allow you to experience a sense of purpose, whilst being a part of the wider community. If working is something that is meaningful to you, it may be beneficial to identify how to pace yourself during the working day. Setting appropriate goals and expectations at home and work, will support you to maintain a sense of self-worth and purpose.

The following suggestions may useful for managing pain in the workplace;

  1. Reposition regularly – alternate your activities aiming to avoid repetitive movements in the same position for prolonged periods of time, when possible.
  2. Stretch regularly – a short walk may be beneficial.
  3. When possible aim to take short and frequent breaks throughout your working day. It may be useful to set reminders for breaks.
  4. Ensure you are utilising your lunch break.
  5. Stay hydrated as dehydration can have an impact upon your physical and mental wellbeing.
  6. Enhance understanding of the medications you are taking, including the side effects that may have an impact upon your working capabilities.
  7. When possible time your medications to increase pain relief when it may be required the most during your working day.
  8. Utilise relaxation and breathing techniques within the workplace to reduce emotional and physical tension. For example;

    Quick relaxation - wherever you are you can engage a simple relaxation exercise which involves; STOP, relax your shoulders, take 2 or 3 slightly slower, slightly deeper out-breaths (just let the in-breath in happen naturally) and notice the sensations of breathing in your belly. Carry on with whatever you were doing, but just a little slower.
    Belly Breathing - Sit comfortably in a chair and place your hands on your belly, with your middle fingertips just slightly touching.  Now breathe in deeply and notice how your fingertips move apart a little.  That shows you are breathing effectively with your diaphragm.  You might need to practice this!

  9. Sleep hygiene and a balanced diet may support you to manage your health at home and in the workplace.
  10. Plan and prioritise your working activities. Set goals for each day where possible. Prioritise what needs to be done and schedule tasks to enhance your efficiency. 
  11. It may be useful to discuss your condition with your employer/ colleagues to improve their understanding. Talking to others may support you to effectively manage pain when working.
  12. Recognise your limitations and be honest with your employer about what you can do and cannot do.

Voluntary Work

Engaging in voluntary work can be beneficial to support you build confidence, explore new areas of work that may allow you to explore your personal strengths, whilst developing new skills. It can be flexible and can work around your personal circumstances which may place less demands on you that structured employment. Voluntary work can also be a stepping stone in paid employment opportunities.

As a volunteer you may have the opportunity to expand on your skills and put previous skills and experience into practice. Support for training costs and expenses may be provided. There are a range of different reasons why you may consider volunteering, which may include;

Reasons to volunteer;

  1. The satisfaction of helping other or your local community
  2. Meeting new people; networking and exploring new opportunities
  3. Being a part of something that is meaningful to you
  4. Making a difference
  5. Sense of purpose, daily structure and routine
  6. Finding roles that you enjoy
  7. Developing new interests, hobbies and skills
  8. New learning opportunities
  9. Developing your CV
  10. Exploring job prospects.

Further information about voluntary work can be found on the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership website and the Lancashire County Council website.

Resources to Support Returning/Maintaining Employment

Services available at the Job Centre

  • Support from the benefit advisors and referral to work preparation courses
  • Referral to the Work and Health Programme.
  • Access to a Disability Employment Advisor (DEA)
  • Links to union support
  • Referral to sector-based work academy programme.

Useful websites

  1. Action for ME
  2. Benefits and Work
  3. Citizens Advice – Long-term condition and work
  4. Gov Access to Work
  5. Gov Looking for work
  6. Gov Reasonable Adjustments
  7. Gov Work and Health Programme
  8. I-Cann Benefit Assessment Advocacy
  9. Intact Preston Back to work
  10. Lancashire County Council Adult Disability Employment Support Service
  11. Lancashire Women’s Service Offers guidance on employment and benefits
  12. Universal credit guidance
  13. NHS Money, work and benefits advice
  14. North West Health and Work
  15. Workplace guidance supporting people with Arthritis
  16. Workplace guidance supporting people with Arthritis
  17. Citizen’s advice
  18. ACAS
  19. NHS Health at Work 
  20. Gov get help at work
  21. Scope - Reasonable adjustments at work
  22. Fit for work - support
  23. Gov - Fit Note
  24. Away with pain


Contact Details

Central Lancashire Moving Well – Pain and ME/CFS Service
Minerva Health Centre
Lowthorpe Road

Telephone: 01772 520 900 (press option 3 for Pain and option 4 for CFS/ME)