Workplaces have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees, including those who live with asthma. Asthma is a serious health condition which claims the lives of over 400 Australians each year. However, a national survey undertaken in 2022 found there is uncertainty amongst workers if taking time off work for asthma is valid.
Given the high prevalence of asthma in Australia – with one in nine people living with it – Asthma Australia asks employers to:
- Be transparent about their sick leave policies in order to better support employees living with asthma.
- Engage alongside employees with asthma to proactively identify asthma risks and mitigation measures at work, prior to their asthma becoming a problem.
Asthma Australia also encourages employees in all sectors to feel empowered to discuss their concerns with their manager. Where their day to day role involves exposure to an asthma triggers, it is important the employee identifies this and works with their workplace and employer to minimize exposure to this triggers. Employers are encouraged to learn more about asthma, understand risks which may exist in their workplace and put in place risk mitigation actions to ensure the workplace is as safe as it can be for people with asthma. All requirements of the day to day role, including the need to commute to work during high-risk periods (such as when there is smoke in the air or high air pollution levels, peak cold and flu seasons, and extreme cold weather) should be discussed. This might also apply to employees who are the main carers of family members who live with asthma.
Asthma is sometimes debilitating as it results in people not being able to get enough air into their lungs. Asthma flare-ups can happen at any time and can become severe quickly. An asthma flare-up, regardless of severity, is a valid reason to stay home from work.
It’s important workplaces consider Asthma First Aid training and are aware of what to do in case of an asthma medical emergency. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure people living with asthma are able to work in a safe environment and feel supported by their employer.