Cystic fibrosis at work

People with CF work in diverse areas of employment – advertising, accounting, early childhood, faming, business, teaching, building and many other professions.

For employers

Because CF is a life-long condition, adults with CF are experts in managing their health. They’ve spent their life focused on staying well, eating well and balancing their treatments with school, study, work and generally living a normal life.

An employee with CF doesn’t need help from employers to manage their day to day health and work; what they do need is an understanding of CF and how it impacts their life.

A guide to cystic fibrosis for employers is a New Zealand specific resource for employers and organisation who have an employee with CF. It provides you with an overview of what CF is, how it impacts on an adult’s life and how you can best accommodate your employee to reach their full potential at work.

Included in the guide are quotes from New Zealand adults with CF that offer an insight into how they’re successfully managing CF alongside their careers.

Please email if you’d like a hardcopy of the guide.


Download A guide to cystic fibrosis for employers
052 CF Finals
Jo cropped

Employment law

Under the Human Rights Act 1993, employers are required to introduce reasonable changes to work the employee will do, or the workplace where the employee will do the work to meet the needs of someone with a disability. What is reasonable will be different for each employer and organisation.

For example, for CF it could include minimising cross infection risks, having a clean and safe place for keeping medications (such as a separate fridge), being able to work from home at times, not having your employee with CF go to certain job sites or take on certain tasks and having flexible hours and time off for hospital appointments.

Candidates for jobs and employees are protected against discrimination in employment due to disability by the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Find out more about your responsibilities in A guide to cystic fibrosis for employers

As an employer you may be eligible for government subsidies for employing someone with a disability, such as wage subsidies or modification grants to help make adjustments to your workplace. Visit the Employment New Zealand website  to find out more about the eligibility criteria.

“I like to be treated the same as everyone else in terms of ability, but also have that extra bit of implicit understanding when I need to duck away. I do everything at work to my best ability, and this has helped show management and my team that I am reliable and passionate about doing a good job, as well as prioritising my health.”

For people with cystic fibrosis

Choosing a career and finding a job are important life choices. Having CF shouldn’t limit your choice but there are a few extra things to consider. Your fieldworker is a good person to talk with if you need some advice about a particular career, as is your CF team.

Should I tell my prospective employer?

It’s up to you to decide who you want to share information about your health with. Some people applying for jobs choose not to disclose a health condition with prospective employers, others may choose to do so.

There are some situations where people have a legal responsibility to reveal a health condition, especially if it could put you or someone else at risk (mentally or physically), or when it could impact your ability to do the job required. Some corporate employment contracts also require a medical to be completed prior to starting work, regardless of the person's health status.

If you do decide to tell your prospective employer you may find A guide to cystic fibrosis for employers helpful. Please email if you’d like a hardcopy of the guide.

Download A guide to cystic fibrosis for employers

Possible advantages of disclosing CF include:

  • you can feel good about being honest and not having someone else find out or this information being revealed by someone else
  • you will be able to work with employers on a plan to cover any time off needed for appointments
  • some employers may see your health condition as an advantage for more diversity in the work place
  • it will help to increase understanding of CF.


Possible disadvantages of disclosing CF include:

  • you may not get the job and feel discriminated against
  • you may be seen as someone not up to the job or overlooked for promotion
  • the employer may fail to show empathy.


Regardless of whether or not you disclose CF during a job interview, many people believe it’s helpful for employers to be aware of a health condition. It can mean they’ll be more flexible with working hours and understanding of time off for hospital appointments or ill-health.

Health at work

It’s important to think about any cross infection risks and the possibility of other people with cystic fibrosis working or visiting your workplace. You should also avoid exposure to possible sources of infection such as hay and compost, and other sources of the fungus Aspergillus and bacteria Pseudomonas.

For healthcare workers, in 2018 a position statement about work environment risks for healthcare workers with cystic fibrosis was released, specific for New Zealand and Australian healthcare workers with CF.


If there's a problem

Remember, it’s also important a job or workplace suits you and it’s somewhere you feel comfortable to work. Don’t give up if it takes time to find the right fit for you.

If you do experience discrimination on the basis of health status, or just want information about your rights, you can seek free, specialist advice by contacting Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also seek legal advice and/or make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

Work and Income also offer advice for helping people find work.


adult beard concentrated 6972

Tips from adults balancing work and CF

“If you're unsure about how much you can take on, start small. Commit to a few hours in a week, and build up from there. It's much easier to extend your hours and feel good about it, instead of biting off more than you can chew at the beginning.”

“At the end of the day, your health has to come first, because if you aren't healthy, then you can't work. Be realistic about your needs and do what you can.”

“Be honest with your boss and realise flexibility is key. I let my boss know that when I’m well, I’ll work harder than anyone in the building. However, I would need time off here and there for ‘tune-ups’. Usually I would do my first three days of IV's in hospital and then do home IV's. This meant I could go into work (laying out the syringes at lunch was always a great topic for conversation).”

“I work almost full time – four days a week. I find that having my nebuliser in the car on the way to work allowed me to sleep in a little later in the mornings. This is imperative to my day as I have to try and fit three nebulisers in and when you have CF, an extra 20 mins of sleep in the morning really makes a difference. This is also a God send as I have to travel nearly an hour every morning so every saved minute counts!”

“First of all, and most important, do something you love. Life is too short to be stuck in a job you don't enjoy. I always struggled with energy levels, but I love going to work - it wears me out but it is worth it!”

Additional support

Our CF field workers can offer advice and talk with you about specific jobs or any concerns or issues you have.

Get in touch with your CF field worker