Background Workforce participation is reduced among people with cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, detailed quantitative evidence on this is limited. We examined the relationship of CVD to workforce participation in older working-age people, by CVD subtype, within population subgroups and considering the role of physical disability. Methods Questionnaire data (2006-2009) for participants aged 45-64 years (n = 163,562) from the population-based 45 and Up Study (n = 267,153) were linked to hospitalisation data through the Centre for Health Record Linkage. Prior CVD was from self-report or hospitalisation. Modified Poisson regression estimated adjusted prevalence ratios (PRs) for non-participation in the workforce in people with versus without CVD, adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Results There were 19,161 participants with CVD and 144,401 without. Compared to people without CVD, workforce non-participation was greater for those with CVD (40.0% vs 23.5%, PR = 1.36, 95%CI = 1.33-1.39). The outcome varied by CVD subtype: myocardial infarction (PR = 1.46, 95%CI = 1.36-1.55); cerebrovascular disease (PR = 1.92, 95%CI = 1.80-2.06); heart failure (PR = 1.83, 95%CI = 1.68-1.98) and peripheral vascular disease (PR = 1.76, 95%CI = 1.65-1.88). Workforce non-participation in those with CVD versus those without was at least 21% higher in all population subgroups examined, with PRs ranging from 1.75 (95%CI = 1.65-1.85) in people aged 50-55 years to 1.21 (95%CI = 1.19-1.24) among those aged 60-64. Compared to people with neither CVD nor physical functioning limitations, those with physical functional limitations were around three times as likely to be out of the workforce regardless of CVD diagnosis; participants with CVD but without physical functional limitations were 13% more likely to be out of the workforce (PR = 1.13, 95%CI = 1.07-1.20). Conclusions While many people with CVD participate in the workforce, participation is substantially lower, especially for people with cerebrovascular disease, than for people without CVD, highlighting priority areas for research and support, particularly for people experiencing physical functioning limitations.