How to find work when you’re ill or disabled


by Lorna White |

If you suffer from chronic illness or are disabled, but still feel that you'd like to work, it can be tricky to find an understanding employer. Around one in four of us aged 50-64 have a health condition or disability, but it doesn't mean that you can't be an active part of a company.

David Shutts OBE is a business champion who is also a cancer patient, and has started charity ASTRiiD (which stands for 'available skills for training, refreshing, improvement, innovation and development) to help fill gaps in the careers market with people who are ill or disabled.

ASTRiiD provides an online tool that matches people affected by chronic illness with businesses that need skills for voluntary coaching and mentoring or paid work. Jobseekers describe their skills, how and when they can work; employers list the work they have available and ASTRiiD connects them. David explains more about how it works.

What sort of work is available to people with illness?

"Since launching last summer, most roles have been white-collar, ranging from general management, operation and finance, to board level, legal and people management. We’ve had a huge variety of positions - a professional speaker, CAD technician, copywriter, employment lawyer, product and quality engineers, SEO consultant, supply chain manager, the list goes on. "But it’s not about saying ‘I was a nurse for 25 years and can only do that’. Many jobs give people the opportunity to try new challenges by applying the skills they have honed to alternative lines of work, so looking for ways to utilise your talents. A retired nurse could adapt to roles in corporate wellness or teaching for example."

Who can get involved?

To become an ASTRiiD member, people need to be part of what we call the ‘Invisible Talent Pool’ – individuals who have a long-term illness but still have a hunger to work and share their skills for employment or volunteer coaching opportunities. This also includes carers of those affected by chronic health problems.

What type of conditions are catered for?

ASTRiiD is inclusive of all health conditions, from cancer, MS or arthritis to sight loss, heart disease or recovery from stroke. Anyone who is, or is a care giver to, someone with a long-term illness prohibiting them from finding work through normal recruiting channels is eligible. And we don't ever ask members what their medical situation is.

How will my benefits be affected?

Benefits for people with a health condition or disability are awarded on an individual basis and as ASTRiiD members are so diverse, people should discuss this with the appropriate government department.

Once a connection is made, ASTRiiD stands back and allows the individual and employer to decide how best to work together, including if the role is paid or voluntary.

What happens if my condition worsens?

ASTRiiD members are always in control. If for any reason you’ll be unavailable for a while, simply click a button in your account which says, ‘make me invisible’ and your profile won’t appear in searches. Only when you’re ready to move the button to ‘make me visible’, will you be included again.

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