Inflammatory bowel disease and employment

Inflammatory bowel disease and employment

If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), learn about how it will affect your ability to work or find a job.

Do I need to tell my employer about my IBD?

You do not have to tell your employer about your condition, and you don’t have to disclose a disability when you apply or interview for a job.

Some employers might ask medical questions after they give you a conditional job offer but they cannot withdraw the offer unless you wouldn’t be able to do the job with reasonable adjustments for your condition.1,2

You may have to tell your employer if you are likely to need reasonable adjustments to do your job. You could ask if a colleague or friend could accompany you for support, and to come prepared with some notes about the impact of IBD.

A man with IBD working on a laptop.

Reasonable adjustments at work

Reasonable adjustments are changes made to remove or reduce the disadvantage caused by disability. This might mean changes to the workplace, equipment or services you use in your role; the ways things are performed or accessibility of information.2

Your employer has a legal duty to consider making these changes, at their own cost. A small business which cannot afford to make reasonable changes must suggest other ways to support you.2

IBD can be invisible to others, and you might have to explain how it affects you and how the adjustments you want would support you.

Some examples of reasonable adjustments are:1

  • being allowed time off to attend appointments or receive treatment
  • flexible working hours
  • no limit on toilet breaks and providing a workspace with easy toilet access
  • offering an alternative role or location, or the option to work from home.

It is a good idea for employers to have a policy in place for setting up and recording such adjustments.2

Are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis disabilities?

Under the Equality Act, a person is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities:3,5

  • The impairment does not have to be a diagnosed medical condition
  • ‘Substantial’ impairment means it takes much longer to complete a task (such as getting dressed) than it would without the impairment
  • Long-term means more than one year

As a life-long condition which can significantly impair ability to perform tasks, IBD may be considered a disability, depending on exactly how it affects your daily life.3

IBD can change in severity over time, with periods of remission and intermittent flare-ups. For the purposes of the Equality Act, if the negative effects of your IBD are likely to recur, they should be treated as if they are continuous.4

Talking to colleagues about your condition

You are not required to tell anyone at work about your Crohn’s disease or your ulcerative colitis even if you consider it to be a disability. It can be difficult to know what to disclose, you might be worried about people’s reactions, and you might be worried you will be treated differently.

On the other hand, you may decide you do want to talk to your colleagues, and you may find your colleagues are supportive and consider your needs.

Read more here on talking about your IBD for some useful tips on how to broach the conversation.

  1. CCUK. Employment: A guide for employees. Accessed October 2023.
  2. ACAS. Reasonable adjustments. Accessed October 2023.
  3. UK Government. Definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.'re%20disabled%20under%20the,to%20do%20normal%20daily%20activities. Accessed October 2023.
  4. UK Government. Guidance: Disability: Equality Act 2010 - Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability. Accessed October 2023.
  5. Citizens Advice. Check if you’re disabled under the equality act. Accessed October 2023.