Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can be challenging for employees diagnosed with the illness as they experience increased absenteeism, feelings of anxiousness, and negative career impact. Moreover, workplace relationships and a lack of understanding of the condition are anxiety-provoking. Utilising Maslow’s (1943) Needs Theory, this study evaluated the effect of IBD on the working lives of individuals diagnosed with the condition and the support they received. Employees from several organisations in a range of industries engaged with this qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven individuals who had received an official diagnosis of IBD and worked in paid employment for at least a year. Insiderness developed a rapport with participants as one of the researchers has lived experience of IBD due to being diagnosed with the condition. We identified five themes: physiological needs regarding symptoms and workplace obligations; safety needs relating to job security through HR policy concerning frequent absences; social (belonging) needs related to disclosure, management and employee attitudes, including their powerful effect; and finally, self-actualisation through the effect IBD can have on an individual’s career. We recommend that employers upskill management knowledge to aid employee inclusion, development and retention.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Maslow, disclosure, HR and workplace, qualitative, lived experience, disability, interviews, qualitative content analysis

Author Bio(s)

Hannah Vaughan is a Liverpool John Moores University graduate who has completed an undergraduate degree in Business Management and a master’s degree in Human Resource Management with CIPD advanced level standards. Hannah works in Human Resources and is an associate member of the CIPD. Please direct correspondence to hvaughan02@yahoo.co.uk.

Dr Tricia Jolliffe is an experienced lecturer and research in the Human Resource Academic Department at Liverpool John Moores University. Her specialist research areas include Action Learning, Roma, Precarity, Profession, Labour Turnover, Spirituality, Machine Learning, and HRD. She is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She worked at Webster University, Geneva, Kingston, and Bournemouth University and has extensive HR consultancy experience, including prior employment with Siemens. Tricia developed the HR Professional Student Network in 2015, Liverpool Roma Employability Network (LREN) in 2017, and Roma Education Aspiration Project (REAP) in 2018. In 2021 Tricia commenced an international project in Syria, India and the Philippines, studying the education and aspiration of females aged 18-30. Please direct correspondence to p.a.jolliffe@ljmu.ac.uk.

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