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Incontinence Advice

Is Bladder Incontinence Considered a Disability in the UK?

Understanding whether bladder incontinence is considered a disability in the UK is crucial for those affected by this condition and can determine which benefits are available. In this article, we will explore the definition of disability from a medical, legal and social model, and discuss how the Equality Act 2010 can impact rights and protections. Furthermore, we will find out how individuals with bladder conditions that cause incontinence are eligible to receive disability benefits and how this can improve quality of life under current UK law.


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What is a disability?

When exploring whether bladder issues qualify as a disability, it's important to look at the different frameworks used to define disability from a medical, legal and social perspective.

  • The medical model: In this framework, disabilities are defined through clinical diagnoses. For instance, overactive bladder (OAB) as a symptom may not be independently recognised as a disability, but its underlying causes, such as neurological damage, could be classified as such. 
  • The legal model: This model considers disability based on eligibility for support and legal protections against discrimination. The question of bladder incontinence being a disability in the UK often hinges on this model. The Equality Act 2010 plays a crucial role here, too, stating that a condition like incontinence can be considered a disability if it significantly impairs daily functioning over a long period of time.
  • The social model: From this perspective, disabilities result from societal barriers rather than the physical or mental impairments themselves. For those with incontinence, a lack of accommodations, such as access to a toilet at work, can exacerbate their challenges and hinder their full participation in society.

Is Incontinence A Disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, incontinence is indeed classed as a disability if it has a "substantial and long-term adverse effect" on a person's ability to perform normal day-to-day activities.” This legal recognition is crucial for those seeking to understand if they are eligible and accessible for incontinence benefits or disability allowances, like Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for bladder problems.

Moreover, whether the condition causing bladder incontinence is considered chronic (long-term) affects its status as a disability. Chronic conditions, particularly when linked to unmanageable symptoms that severely impact life quality, may qualify for disability benefits under UK law. This acknowledgement allows individuals to receive the necessary support and accommodation required to engage in society so they can manage their condition more effectively.


Understanding the equality act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 refers to disability rights in the UK, providing extensive protections and defining what constitutes a disability—including conditions that cause bladder incontinence.

Protections under the act: 

The Equality Act 2010 ensures that individuals with disabilities receive equal treatment in various sectors, including employment and education, and have equal access to goods, services, and facilities. For people with bladder conditions, these protections are crucial. They ensure that conditions requiring frequent toilet breaks are accommodated in workplaces and public spaces, thus enabling individuals to participate fully in society without fear of discrimination.

Definition of disability: 

According to the Act, a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative impact on a person's ability to perform normal day-to-day activities.” 


"Substantial" is defined as more than minor or trivial, and "long-term" means lasting or expected to last at least twelve months.

Progressive conditions: 

The Act also covers progressive conditions from the point of diagnosis. Conditions like HIV, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are recognised as disabilities immediately upon diagnosis. This provision is crucial for ensuring early intervention and support.

Exclusions: 

The Equality Act 2010 does not specifically list conditions that are excluded from protection. Instead, it focuses on defining what constitutes a disability. However, there are certain conditions or circumstances where the Act’s protections may not apply, such as temporary conditions, past disabilities or minor impairments which do not significantly impact an individual’s ability to carry out their day-to-day activities.

Accessing further guidance

To find further information about disability benefits, including incontinence benefits, the government website  provides detailed statutory guidance. This guidance aids courts and tribunals in determining who qualifies as disabled under the Act.  The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS), is a government-funded helpline that has replaced the Equality and Human Rights Commission Helpline. This website, offering additional support and information to individuals seeking clarification on their rights and the provisions of the Act.

Managing bladder incontinence in employment

Deciding whether to inform your employer about bladder incontinence can be daunting. Under the Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against individuals with a disability. This protection covers all stages of employment, from recruitment to workplace accommodations.

Reasons to disclose may include:

  • Legal protection: The Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities to support their work capability. This might include allowing flexible break times or providing access to toilet facilities closer to the workspace.

  • Workplace support: Being open about your condition can lead to better understanding and support from your employer and colleagues.


When to disclose:

  • During recruitment: You might choose to disclose your condition on application forms to ensure any necessary accommodations can be arranged from the start.

  • Existing employment: If your condition is affecting your work, discussing it with your employer can lead to adjustments that improve your work life and productivity.


While the law protects against discrimination, workplace dynamics can vary. It's important to prepare for potential challenges. Some coworkers might lack understanding which could lead to uncomfortable situations. Alternatively, being transparent with your employer and colleagues can foster a supportive environment, although this is not guaranteed.

Practical tips for managing bladder incontinence at work

There are a few routine adjustments that can be maintained by yourself in the workplace so that sufficient time can be allocated to properly manage OAB. This may include:

  • Establish a regular bathroom break schedule.

  • Know the locations of all accessible bathrooms in your workplace.

  • Use protective products if necessary to prevent accidents. For example, we offer plenty of discreet continence products to ensure you remain comfortable in the workplace when handling bladder conditions.

  • Obtaining a Just Can't Wait card for urgent access to facilities, reducing stress and potential embarrassment.

  • Keeping a change of clothes at work for peace of mind.

Seeking help

Understanding whether OAB is a chronic condition is crucial. Start with a medical evaluation to discuss symptoms and potential treatments. This diagnosis will be essential for any disability claims, and can also be done for those who act as carers for people that are incontinent.

Legal and disability support

As discussed, there are plenty of methods to obtain legal and disability support when handling bladder incontinence such as:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP): If incontinence significantly impacts your life, you might be eligible for PIP.

  • Employment support: You can contact the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Age UK for guidance on disability benefits.

  • Legal advice: If you face workplace discrimination, consult a lawyer who specialises in disability rights.


In conclusion, bladder incontinence and overactive bladder (OAB) can be considered disabilities under the UK's Equality Act 2010, entitling individuals to legal protections and reasonable accommodations in employment and daily life. Understanding your rights and the available support is crucial towards overall wellbeing. Whether seeking disability benefits or understanding employment challenges, legal and medical advice is crucial so that you can receive the maximum potential suitable for your condition. 


FAQs

Can I claim disability benefits for incontinence?

Yes, you can claim disability benefits for incontinence if it significantly impairs your daily activities and ability to work, and meets the specific criteria set by the Equality Act 2010.

Which bladder conditions qualify for disability?

These include chronic incontinence, interstitial cystitis, bladder cancer, and other conditions that severely affect bladder control and require ongoing medical treatment.

What are the best aids or pads to take to work to manage incontinence?

Consider products that have a slimline-fit, are individually wrapped, concealable, and can be easily disposed of within the workplace.


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