Is missing out on a job because of a heart condition discrimination?

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a heart condition causing problems, part-time problems and a delicate balance of rights.

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment.Credit: Dionne Gain

My partner works in the transport and logistics industry driving forklifts and delivery vehicles. He disclosed on a job application that he has a long-standing heart condition. Aside from some fatigue, the condition doesn’t affect his ability to work. In the interview, the recruiter told my partner he’d be reluctant to put him forward due to his condition. Is this even legal?


Employers have legal obligations not to unlawfully discriminate against a person based on a disability (physical or mental). But this obligation has to be balanced against the other legal obligation of providing a safe working environment.

The situation your husband has experienced is a tricky one, so I got in touch with HR expert Sarah Queenan, founder and managing director of Humanify HR. She tells me that if someone has a physical disability, like a heart condition, employers need to consider the inherent requirements of the role and whether, in this case, your husband can effectively carry out essential or fundamental duties. It sounds like the company has a reasonable concern your husband’s health issues may impact his ability to safely carry out the role.

Your husband might be best to obtain a letter or medical certificate from his doctor confirming his health issues will not have any impact on his ability to work, should this come up again.

I came back from maternity leave to work part-time. I work in the office on Wednesdays, then work another two days at home. I have a long commute, so my husband re-arranged his work schedule around my Wednesday office days. My manager constantly schedules meetings on Tuesdays at short notice, and asks me to switch my day in the office as a “one off”. I’ve told her multiple times that I’m unable to do this and feel I’m being left out of important decisions. Is it just me or is my manager being unreasonable?


It sounds like you did everything you could to manage your return to work and, as any parent with young children knows, schedules are not something to be trifled with unless in exceptional circumstances. It sounds your boss has no appreciation of the pressure these requests have on you and your family. I don’t think you’re being unreasonable to ask for some level of certainty regarding the schedule you’ve agreed on or, at least, plenty of notice on the rare occasion a change needs to happen.

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