While living with cystic fibrosis can present challenges when it comes to finding work and holding down a job, the right support and workplace accommodations can make all the difference.
Working in a job where your strengths and skills shine, and where you can manage your health well, can have life changing benefits.
During your job search, it’s important to know your rights, and ask for help when you need it.
In Australia, you can access employment support services at no cost in your local area.
Things to consider when looking for work
In most cases, living with cystic fibrosis should not limit your career choices and job opportunities.
However, there may be some workplaces and job types that are better suited to your needs and preferences.
When looking for jobs for people with cystic fibrosis, it’s helpful to ask yourself:
Are there any obvious health risks? For example, will you be exposed to smoke, fumes, car exhaust or other irritants?
Is the work environment suitable for your symptoms?
Will you need a fridge, kitchen or first aid facilities?
Is the workplace accessible?
Will you need flexible working hours or time off for your work?
What’s the organisation’s policy on sick leave?
What jobs are a good fit for you?
Brainstorming your strengths, skills, interests and passions is a good first step when looking for work.
Also consider whether you will need further qualifications, skills or experience before applying for jobs.
If you’re interested in a particular job, talking to people already working in the field can give you a better picture of what the day to day responsibilities will be.
Work experience is also a good way to try out workplaces and job types you might be interested in.
You can include any work experience and volunteer jobs you do in your resume. This can help you stand out when applying for jobs in the future.
Finding work that’s a good fit can be challenging, and it’s important to ask for help if you need it.
An employment consultant can help you with career planning and deciding what steps you need to take now to reach your employment goals in the future.
Support to find a job
You could be eligible for a number of employment support services at no cost to you, such as Disability Employment Services and Workforce Australia.
Disability Employment Services (DES Provider) is a government-funded program supporting people living with injury, illness or disability to find and keep a job. If eligible, a provider in your area will work closely with you to create a tailored employment plan based on your goals and needs.
Your provider can help with things like:
Finding suitable job opportunities
Applying for jobs
Writing your resume
Preparing for job interviews
Accessing work experience opportunities
Gaining employment skills
Your DES provider will also support you to succeed in your new job, and can provide ongoing support if you need it.
This may include helping you access workplace modifications, funding for things like uniforms and transport or mental health services.
Workplace accommodations are changes to your job responsibilities, workplace environment or job schedule that help you do your job well and safely.
The right accommodations can help you feel more confident and supported in your role.
In Australia, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees to do their job properly and safely.
You can ask your employer for adjustments directly or work with a Disability Employment Services provider to access the adjustments you need.
Examples of accommodations at work include:
Having somewhere safe to store your medication
Not doing tasks that put you at high risk of infection
Working from home
Flexible working hours
Time off for medical appointments
Scheduled breaks during the day to manage fatigue
Having a car park close to the entrance of your workplace
All employees in Australia have workplace rights, including the right to work in a safe environment without discrimination, bullying or harrassment.
It’s unlawful for employers to treat you unfairly or discriminate against you because of a disability.
That may include not hiring you, offering you unfair terms or conditions, changing your job to your disadvantage of firing you because of disability.
If your health condition or disability affects your ability to perform the essential tasks of a job safely or properly, you’re required to disclose your condition to the employer.
However, if your health condition or disability doesn’t affect your ability to do the essential tasks of the job, disclosing it is your personal decision.
If you feel that you have been unfairly treated in the workplace or while looking for work, you can seek legal advice from organisations such as Legal Aid or WorkCover.
You can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Succeeding in the workplace
More people who are living with cystic fibrosis are working than ever before.
Getting a job that works for you can bring life changing benefits.
Working can give you more control over your life, improve your mental well being and allow you to connect with your community in a meaningful way.
Living and working with cystic fibrosis is not without its challenges, and you may find that your health and needs at work change over time.
Having the right support network with you each step of the way can help you feel more confident when navigating the challenges and working towards your goals.