“In some jobs you just can’t hide your skin because you have to wear a uniform, and if you’re embarrassed and don’t want to bring attention to it or talk about it, that can be really tough. Most people just aren’t that understanding – they think it’s just dry skin and you can just moisturise.”
The impact of eczema is not limited to a person’s personal life; it can also be highly troublesome for people in certain jobs that involve contact with irritants, such as catering, hairdressing, cleaning or healthcare work. Even if your eczema isn’t exacerbated by the type of job you do, uniforms, the workplace temperature or simply the anxiety with dealing with strangers can lead to difficulty, and in some situations, lead people to giving up work altogether.
“When my eczema was really bad around a year and a half ago, I didn’t go into work.”
This is the hidden cost of eczema, one which is not discussed but which has broad ramifications for the individual and the economy. For those with eczema, many have required time off work in order to ensure their eczema could heal. But some people with eczema feel there is a social stigma associated with the condition – this can come from colleagues not understanding its true impact, to management being unsympathetic about needing time off or working from home.
“It’s hard to explain why you need time off for your skin – I get that it can sound like a pathetic excuse, I was very lucky to have such an understanding manager. I have a friend who has had eczema since she was born, and she lies about why she can’t go into work – instead, she’ll use her children as an excuse.”
Taking the first step to dealing with this will depend on your relationship with your manager, as well as your confidence at work. As a priority though, you should ensure you know what your rights are with regards to statutory and company sick pay, as well as beginning to open a dialogue with your manager and the HR team about your condition, needs and concerns.
Meanwhile, avoiding or managing triggers in the workplace will be key to controlling your eczema. Avoiding triggers at work can be difficult, but here are a number of resources available online to help give advice to those working with skin conditions. The Health and Safety Executive has put together a comprehensive collection of case studies and best practice guides which gives useful tips and solutions on how to overcome some of these workplace challenges.