Supporting employees with cardiovascular disease

Information and guidance for employers on supporting employees with cardiovascular (heart and circulatory)

​These pages give more information on the specific condition. They should be read in conjunction with our Supporting employees with long term health conditions pages to help you understand how a workplace can assist in helping an employee return to and remain at work.

Cardiovascular disease is a term for all illnesses of the heart and circulatory system. It can cover a wide range of health conditions including heart attacks, angina, high blood pressure and stroke. Most people who have been diagnosed with a heart condition will be able to continue to work.

The prognosis (outlook) and physical and mental impact on the individual can vary, even with those with similar diagnoses. Treatment side effects can also be variable and debilitating on a day to day basis, and sometimes longer term.

How to support employees in the workplace

You may find employees with a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease can have increased levels of sickness absence. They may also need to attend the hospital or their specialist more frequently than those without the health condition.

Authorised absence, out with the normal organisation sickness absence triggers, should be considered an appropriate adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. This would be identified within your Supporting Staff Attendance policy.

If you feel your policy doesn’t include this, you can get support from our Supporting staff attendance pages.

Other areas that you can consider when supporting an employee with cardiovascular disease include:

  • fluctuating health and stamina levels which may affect them more if they do shift work or full-time hours
  • does their medication make them sluggish? Would amending their work rotas, (e.g. starting later and finishing earlier at work to avoid rush hour), home working if appropriate or a combination of both, help maintain them at work?
  • are they struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis? Would they benefit from counselling and time off to attend?
  • the nature of the work they do. Is it physically demanding for them, can they be redeployed or their duties amended to allow them to continue to work?
  • is driving part of their job role; if so do they need to inform the DVLA and insurance company of their diagnosis?
  • Review the risk assessments for the job they do. Consider if your employee has a pacemaker fitted and if any work equipment such as magnets could affect it
  • do you have contingency plans in place if your employee becomes unwell and is unable to remain at work?
  • review your first aid arrangements
  • can your employee utilise Access to Work for tools to assist them in the workplace?

Key sources of support

As an employer, you may need some external support from other agencies, such as Access to Work, or charities such as Stroke Association or British Heart Foundation. They can provide additional advice and support for you and your employee, for example voice-activated software if your employee has a weakness with their upper limbs following a stroke.

Key sources of support for both the employer and employee include:

Healthy Working Lives can help you to develop supportive and inclusive workplace policies and offer support both online and on the telephone. You can contact the free and confidential advice line on 0800 019 2211 for more advice.


Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), there may be further support required for your employee who has a health condition due to cardiovascular disease.

They may be in the category identified by the Scottish Government at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. To protect themselves, they have been issued with a letter informing them of shielding (external site) and what this means for them.

Within this shielding letter, there is lots of information on support for them. They can also use this to provide evidence to you as their employer that they cannot work outside their own home.

If they have not received a letter requesting them to follow shielding protocol, you may find that they still fall into a category of higher risk. This can be identified by the fact they get offered the flu vaccine by their GP. They do not need to accept this offer, but they need to have been classified by their GP as needing it because of their health condition.