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Loving my career whilst living with a hidden health condition

Anita Clarke has loved every minute of her career in Serco Employment, Skills and Enterprise (ESE), where we deliver government support programmes for citizens and smaller businesses.

She joined in 2009 and is now a Senior Performance Manager for our ESE operations helping employers upskill their workforces – managing 14 training providers across four UK regions. 

Anita also lives and works with a hidden long-term health condition known as irritable bowel disease (IBD). 

Eight months after joining, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – a painful and debilitating condition of the lower digestive system. After years of medication and remission, it returned with a vengeance in 2019, until the only way for surgeons to save her life was by removing her large colon and forming an ileostomy, where the small intestine is diverted through an opening in the abdomen. The rest of her lower digestive system followed in 2022. 

“I went into hospital one person and came out another,” says Anita, whose colleagues and managers have stood by her every step of the way. “I’ve been very lucky to work with incredible people who have gone above and beyond to support me and help me manage all of this, as well as issues with my teenage son, who is autistic. Nobody has ever treated me differently. I’ve always felt highly valued in every Serco team I’ve worked in.”

Serco’s sickness absence policy has given Anita peace of mind throughout that she can take the time she needs to recover. Phased returns to work post-surgery also have been very helpful, as have opportunities to adjust her hours during periods of illness. Anita is also passionate about the support she received through the Serco Employee Assistance Programme.

“It’s an amazing service, and completely free. I’d always assumed it would be arduous, intrusive, and not about me, but it was quick and easy, completely confidential, and very supportive. It gave me all the help I needed when I needed it, including bereavement counselling after my father died.” 

Man holding smart phone

Anita works as an ambassador for SercoUnlimited, our international network supporting people living with disabilities, health conditions and impairments. In this role she is determined to make a difference by going out into the business to share her story, promote all the support and resources available, and offer insightful guidance from her own personal experience.

“I encourage people to open up to someone they trust. Keeping a disability hidden is like suffocating part of yourself – if nobody knows, nobody can help. Meanwhile, the key to being a good ally is not being afraid to ask what your colleagues want from you as an ally. It makes it so much easier and more comfortable for everybody.” 

Anita was introduced to SercoUnlimited in 2020 and instantly fell in love with all that it stood for “SercoUnlimited is helping Serco become ever more diverse and inclusive – a company we can all be proud to work for – by embracing and empowering disability in the workplace. It’s about opening doors and opening minds. We support individuals who reach out for help whilst educating and upskilling allies at all levels and working with the organisation to make sure there will always be an accessible place for everyone in Serco.” 

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