Battling Hay Fever at Work: How Employers Can Support Affected Employees

Battling Hay Fever at Work: How Employers Can Support Affected Employees

Read Time: 5 Minutes


16 May 2024

Often find yourself with itchy eyes, a runny nose and a cough during the warmer months? Whether you’re a sufferer or share a workspace with someone who does, you may find that hay fever is an extremely common allergy.

The NHS website states that ‘hay fever is a common allergy that causes sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes. You cannot cure it, but there are things you can do to help your symptoms or medicines you can take to help.’

Symptoms are usually worse between late March and September, especially when it's warm, humid and windy. This is when the pollen count is at its highest. Hay fever can last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.

A study from Allergy UK reports that 49% of the UK have had hay fever symptoms, making it one of the most common allergies. A persistent and bothersome condition, we wanted to delve deeper into hay fever in the workplace. Are employees expected to just deal with it? Should employers be making necessary adjustments to working conditions?

We surveyed 1,000 Brits, both sufferers and non-sufferers of hay fever to find out exactly what they think about hay fever and how it should be handled when it comes to work. We also caught up with Dr Gareth Nye BSc(Hons), PhD, FHEA, MHFA from Chester Medical School to get his insight into what employers can do to help employees during the spring and summer seasons.


What Does the Survey Say?

When surveying our respondents, more than 45% shared that they suffer from hay fever. Almost half of the UK workforce revealed that they suffer from hay fever in some form. 49% shared that they didn’t suffer from hay fever. Interestingly, 3% revealed that they used to suffer from hay fever symptoms but don’t any more and some respondents even shared that they didn't suffer from it prior to COVID but do so now.


Is Time off Acceptable?

We asked our survey respondents if they think employees should be allowed time off work if they suffer from hay fever.

Only 27% believe that employees should be allowed to take time off work, even if symptoms are extremely severe. 73% believe that pulling a sicky for hay fever isn’t acceptable.

Instead of having time off work, we asked our respondents if they think employees should be allowed to work from home if they suffer from hay fever instead. Interestingly, more than 70% of respondents think it’s absolutely fine for employees to work from home should they be suffering from hay fever symptoms. 
28% of respondents don’t think hay fever sufferers should be allowed to work from home to help combat their symptoms. Interestingly, of those who believe that employees shouldn’t be allowed to work from home, over 50% were aged 45 and over. Maybe Gen X and Boomers believe that a little hay fever sniffle doesn’t warrant time away from the office and that Gen Z and Millenials have become too reliant on remote work.

We asked hay fever sufferers specifically if they feel they’re able to control their symptoms better at home or in the office. It’s probably no surprise that almost two in five shared that they’re able to control their symptoms better at home in their own environment. But with hay fever becoming more prominent and hard to escape, more than half of hay fever sufferers revealed that it doesn't matter where they work as they still suffer the same.


Employer Support for Allergy Sufferers

We asked our respondents if they think employers should do more to help employees who suffer from hay fever.

Over half of the respondents answered ‘yes’ and believed that employers should actively be doing more to support hay fever sufferers in their workforce. 41% of respondents, however, believe that employers shouldn’t need to help employees who suffer from hay fever and they should come to work as normal. 8% of respondents shared open to feedback that employers should help their employees with hay fever on a ‘case by case basis’ or ‘only if very severe’.

To find out more, we asked our respondents if their employer currently offers any adjustments or has any measurements in place to help hay fever sufferers at work.

  • Ability to work from home - 32%
  • Appropriate aircon and ventilation - 24%
  • Access to medications - 11%
  • Circulating communications around things like grass cutting on the premises - 8%
  • Additional cleaning in summer months - 4%

How Severe Is the Workforce Suffering?

We asked our hay fever-suffering respondents a few questions to better understand the severity of their condition.

We asked our respondents if they had started seeing symptoms yet this year. Over half of sufferers have already started experiencing hay fever symptoms, and with hay fever season running into September, sufferers could be in for a long stint of symptom suffering.

We also asked our respondents if they feel their symptoms have changed, for the better or worse in recent years compared to previous years. Almost 1 in 5 sufferers reported that their hay fever appears to be worsening, however, 58% reported that their symptoms are staying steady and haven’t changed too drastically with 22% revealing that hay fever has actually gotten better in recent years.

We asked sufferers what the most common hay fever symptoms they suffer from are.

  • Sneezing - 47%
  • Watery, itchy, red eyes - 41%
  • Congestion - Runny nose and nasal stuffiness - 37%
  • Feeling tired - 19%
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat - 16%
  • Headache - 13%
  • Coughing - 8%
  • Swollen, bruised-appearing skin under the eyes - 8%
  • Loss of smell/taste - 7%
  • Pain around the sides of your head and your forehead - 7%

What Do The Experts Have To Say?

      We spoke to Dr Gareth Nye BSc(Hons), PhD, FHEA, MHFA. Endocrinology theme lead for the
      Physiological Society, Ambassador for the Society of Endocrinology and Programme Lead for
      Medical Science (BMedSci) at Chester Medical School to get deeper insight into hay fever and
      what employers can do to help.

      Twitter: @ganye91 Tiktok: @dr.gareth.nye  Instagram: @drganye


Is hay fever as serious as other illnesses and should it be treated the same?

“It is a minor illness and of course, hayfever provisions shouldn't come at the expense of other illnesses but it should still be treated compassionately. Nearly half the adult population will suffer from hay fever and there is a range of levels at which it impacts from mild sneezing to requiring serious medication to combat. Ultimately any condition which impacts your ability to work to the fullest should be investigated and a plan should be in place to try and make the work environment work for you”


Why has hay fever gotten worse in recent years?

"Recent increases in temperature and climate change have lengthened the hay fever season for many people. Symptoms start earlier and are lasting longer."


How can employers support employees with hay fever?

  • It's important to make a clear space to hang coats and jackets away from the main working area to prevent the carry-through of pollen particles.
  • Ensure the workplace is ventilated generally but keep windows closed during peak pollen times like early morning.
  • Remove high pollen-producing plants from the workspace or keep them close to ventilation routes.
  • Move hay fever sufferers away from open windows and doors if the layout allows.
  • Allow working from home or a more flexible approach to working when pollen counts are particularly high.

Are you a hay fever sufferer? Think your employer should be doing more to support employees? Let us know your thoughts on social media by using #instantprintuk!


About the Author

Hi, I’m Ally and I’m instantprint’s PR Lead. I enjoy writing content to help small businesses succeed and inspire them to get creative with their print marketing.