Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the world. Research suggests that more than 14% of people in the world have contracted the disease throughout their life. Europe has the highest levels of contraction and the disease is something that has been gaining awareness throughout the U.K.

The main symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • A circular or oval-shaped rash around a tick bite on the skin
  • A high temperature
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Pain and swelling in joints

Some people might experience more severe symptoms down the line too, including:

  • Nerve problems
  • Heart problems
  • Difficulties with memory or concentration

How the disease affects people can be widely different. Some people might feel ill straight away and then recover completely. Others might have delayed symptoms. Others may feel sick with Lyme disease in a chronic and long-term way.

Chronic Lyme Disease

It is chronic Lyme disease that we want to focus on here. When Lyme disease affects your everyday activities in the long term, it can become a disability. You are disabled under the Equality Act of 2020 if, “you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”

Some people with Lyme disease deal with the main symptoms of tiredness, aches and pains, and loss of energy for years. The disease can present in a similar way to chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Doctors still aren’t sure why this happens to some people and not others. There is a lot still to be known about long-term Lyme disease and so there isn’t one agreed form of treatment or medication.

This means that many people with the disease still feel underrepresented and unseen. They struggle on a daily basis and yet there seems to be little help out there. On this page, we want to help shine the light on Lyme disease and how it affects people. Our aim at Careers with Disabilities is to help all sorts of disabled employees feel happier and more supported at work. One of the best ways we can do this is via spreading knowledge and awareness.

Let’s start by looking at how chronic Lyme disease affects employees at work.

Lyme Disease and Work

Chronic Lyme disease can greatly impact someone’s ability to work and stay in employment. A survey found that as many as 40% of people with chronic Lyme disease reported that they couldn’t work because of the disease. 24% of participants stated that they had received disability-related benefits at some point after developing the condition.

The symptoms associated with long-term Lyme disease can make working very difficult at times. Fatigue, aches and pains, and lack of energy are difficult symptoms to work with. They can cause more frequent absences and loss of productivity. There can also be increased mental health problems as frustration and upset occur at being so frequently unwell.

It is important to remember that as someone with a long-term health condition that affects them significantly, you are entitled to extra support at work. Under equal employment law. Your employer needs to support you so you can work in the same way as your colleagues. The main component of this support will be reasonable adjustments. These are changes that can be made to work to help you. And to put on an even playing field with your colleagues.

Reasonable Adjustments

Some reasonable adjustments that have been known to help people with Lyme disease include:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Remote working
  • Extra breaks
  • Permitted time off for doctor’s appointments and treatment
  • Access to counselling
  • Extra time for deadlines

The aim of these reasonable adjustments should be to make your life at work more manageable. When you are able to work without being punished for your condition, it is more likely that you will stay productive in a sustainable way and that you will stay in your job for longer. When things are more flexible and forgiving, it gets much better for someone with a chronic condition. Don’t be afraid to speak up about the support you need. Getting the right support put in place can make a huge difference.

If you aren’t getting what you need in your current employment, it might be time to look for a new job. You can find a job with a Disability-Friendly employer on our live job board at Careers with Disabilities. Finding someone to work with who can actively support you can completely change your working life.

Support for Employers

Everything that we have discussed for employees with Lyme disease should also be helpful and informative for employers. Taking the time to read about the condition and how it affects the people living with it is a great first step to working more inclusively and ethically. Knowledge is key here.

As an employer, you will be required to make reasonable adjustments whenever possible. It is important that you act on any requests promptly and appropriately. Your disabled employees are entitled to active support and they deserve to receive it easily.

One of the most important things you can do for an employee with Lyme disease is to be patient and understanding. It is still not a condition we know too much about and people with the condition will be learning as they go along. So should you. Try and be patient with your employee and allow your approach to change and adapt when needed.

Another great thing to provide is training for the rest of your employees. Your employee works with more people than just you and they deserve to have respect and understanding from everyone they work with. Running some training sessions can really help with this. An hour or two out of the work day can make a big difference for a disabled employee with a hidden disability. Awareness helps everyone.

External Support

There are external avenues of support that you can help as an employer of disabled employees. So don’t panic if you think you still have more to learn and figure out. Some worthwhile options include:

You can use our site to learn more about topics and issues to do with disabilities at work. You can also work with us to advertise jobs, promote a company profile, and recruit diverse candidates. All in a Disability-Friendly way.

Disabled employees have so many benefits to add to your company. If you want to open your business up in an inclusive and forward-thinking way, get started with our services today.