Dementia is legally recognised as a disability in the UK, giving specific rights under equalities law. Read our advice for a reader asked to leave their job after a diagnosis.
‘I’ve told my boss that I’ve been diagnosed with dementia and she’s asked me to leave. What can I do?’
Having dementia doesn’t have to mean that you stop working. You may still have a lot to contribute, and working is important to many people’s wellbeing.
Even if you’re finding work too much of a struggle and you welcome the idea of stopping, you’ll probably need to plan how you’d adjust financially.
What does the law say?
Under equalities law, you can’t be sacked simply for having dementia, because dementia counts as a disability.
You can be dismissed if you can’t do your job, but employers should first consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you carry on. These might include providing a quieter environment, changing hours or even offering you a different role. What’s considered ‘reasonable’ depends on a number of things, including the costs involved.
The main law in England and Wales relating to this is the Equality Act 2010, while in Northern Ireland it’s the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but what they say is basically the same.
Talk to your boss
Your employer might not have a good understanding of dementia or equalities law, and our Dementia-friendly business guide or guidance from DEEP (the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project) could help them with this.
Try to discuss different options with your boss. You could take someone with you for support, such as a family member, colleague or union representative.
It can be useful to get some advice about your legal rights, so you know where you stand when talking to your boss.
Try Citizens Advice or your union, if you are in one. ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has a free helpline on 0300 123 1100, as does the Labour Relations Agency in Northern Ireland, on 03300 555 300.
You could also speak to a solicitor, though they will charge a fee.
What if they sack you anyway?
It all depends on the circumstances, but you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal if you are sacked simply because of your dementia and without ‘reasonable adjustments’ being considered.
You’d need to get legal advice and there are tight time limits for tribunal claims, so the sooner you get advice the better.
What if you stop work?
It may be that, despite adjustments being made, you aren’t able to continue working – or you may decide that you’d prefer to stop anyway.