In the final part of our series on Dementia in the Workplace consider what to do if you are an employee who has been diagnosed with dementia. We discuss the obligations that may arise on behalf of both you and your employer, and the extra support you will be entitled to receive.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and 45,000 are under the age of 65. With an ageing population and rising state pension age, it will become more common for employers to find themselves addressing these issues.
To tell or not to tell?
If you are still working when you receive a diagnosis it can be a worrying time. In certain jobs there will be a legal obligation on you to inform your employer of your diagnosis, such as if you work on a plane or if driving is part of your role.
In many other situations it will be left up to you to decide if you would like to tell your employer. Before making any decisions, you should first ensure that you have read your contract of employment and any relevant workplace policies to ascertain if there is a prescribed way in which to approach this type of issue, or if you are indeed obligated to inform your employer.
Whilst it can be a difficult conversation to have, it could be one worth having for a number of reasons. Once your employer is aware of your situation it will enable to consider making changes to assist you.
It will also provide you with more legal rights, as under the Equality Act 2010 the symptoms commonly associated with dementia will usually be considered a disability. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to assist any disabled employee in the workplace. But this obligation only arises if they are aware of the disability, hence this being one of the benefits of informing your employer.
Once your employer is aware of your diagnosis, you will be able to work with them to discuss reasonable adjustments to address any difficulties in doing your job cause by your symptoms.
What these adjustments look like will depend on you and your role, but could include things such as changing your working hours or schedule, allowing you to work from home where possible (covid-19 restrictions aside), moving to a different and more suitable role if one is available, or simplifying your routine and tasks. What is considered reasonable will be subjective depending on your circumstances and those of your employer.
If an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments once aware of your condition, or worse, dismisses you due to your condition or anything that arises from your symptoms, this would give rise to a claim of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Alternatively, if your employer makes things so difficult for you that you feel you have no choice but to leave then this could give rise to a claim of constructive dismissal. If you feel either of these situations have occurred then you should speak with a legal adviser as soon as possible so you do not fall foul of the time limits applicable to your potential claim.
If you feel you can no longer work – what happens to your pension?
Some people may feel like they either cannot or do not want to keep on working following a diagnosis of dementia. However this in itself will give rise to a number of concerns, including whether or not you are still entitled to your pension.
The state pension is only available once an individual has reached state pension age, which has recently been raised to 66, but by 2028 will have raised further to 67. A further pre-condition to receiving your state pension is that you have made enough national insurance contributions throughout your working life, and ceasing to work before state pension age may affect this. However, some benefits do provide you with national insurance contribution credits to help protect your state pension entitlement if you must stop working early.
Whether or not you are able to still claim your workplace pension will be dependent on the specific terms of your workplace scheme, however many pensions allow you to take your workplace pension early if you retire due to illness. It is therefore important to consult your pension provider and find out your rights. Taking your pension early could also affect your financial situation in other ways, and therefore it would be prudent to discuss your overall financial situation with a financial adviser to work out the best course of action for you.