Telling work

A close up of a woman

If you experience a sudden heart event - like a heart attack - or if you have a long term condition and are feeling more unwell than usual, it can be difficult to know what to do about work.

First steps

You might not need much time off work at all – if any – in which case you can decide how comfortable you are with telling your boss and your colleagues about your condition. Or you may choose not to tell them until it becomes an issue and you feel your heart condition is affecting your work.

It may be helpful to let key people know, in case you need to rush off to a hospital appointment or take some sick leave. 

If you’ve been told you might need a considerable amount of time off work, it’s probably best to go down the formal route. Every company has different rules, but your first call should be to your line manager or HR department – whichever is easiest. If you are not able to, a partner or a friend could do it for you. 

They should be able to tell you what you need to know, for example:

  • How much sick pay you get and how long for
  • What happens when or if you go past the amount of sick leave your company allows
  • Arrangements for returning to work - including options for part time, staged return to work or working from home, and aids to help you in the workplace

How long will I be off work?

How long you’re likely to be off work depends on the condition you have and how you’re progressing. Again, it’s important to listen to your body and think carefully about when you think you will be ready. Make sure you consult your doctor when you think you’re ready to go back.

What if I can’t do my job any more?

If your work is very physically demanding, you may find it difficult to continue at that level after being diagnosed with a heart condition. The first thing you should do is discuss with your HR team and your line manager whether you would be able to take on a role that involves less physically strenuous work.

What if I don't get sick pay?

If you are in a situation where you don’t get sick pay (for example, if you are a temporary worker or self-employed) or you’re only allowed a limited amount of paid sick leave, which is getting close to the end, you should visit the Job Centre Plus. They will help you apply for Employment Support Allowance and other benefits you may be eligible for while you are off sick.

What if my workplace is not cooperating?

Some people may find their boss or colleagues are uncooperative – whether in terms of supporting you while you are off sick or making reasonable adjustments when you return to work.

Your first port of call should always be your HR department if you have one. They should be able to help you and establish what your rights are. They can also advise you if you want to complain. Depending on how far along you go with a complaint, they should also be able to advise you about legal representation if you want it.

There are also organisations like ACAS that exist to help people with just this sort of problem.

I've been told to stop working entirely - what should I do?

If your doctor has recommended that you stop working, or if you've decided you want to stop, it can be very difficult to adjust. You may also be worried about your finances.

Finding a new way to fulfill your sense of purpose - perhaps at a different pace, taking up new hobbies, making new friends, or taking the time to do something you always wanted to - can help fill the gap.

Whatever you do, it's important to give yourself the time and space you need to adjust to your new circumstances.

Help and information

Our scientists are fighting for every heartbeat

Your donations help us fund hundreds of top scientists all over the UK, working on more than a thousand different research projects.

They're all fighting to help heart patients: finding new, better treatments for people with heart and circulatory disease, and developing new ways to better prevent or diagnose it.

Donate now

Want to know more?

Order or download our publications: