Top tips for working with epilepsy
Our Support Services Manager, Andrée Mayne, gives some helpful tips for people with epilepsy who are already working or are starting work.
With many employees going back into the office after the hiatus caused by COVID-19 negotiating the world of work might be tricky for many of us, but it can be even trickier if someone has epilepsy. If you have epilepsy and you work, you're about to start work or you're thinking of getting back into work, read our top tips below.
Tip 1 - Telling people about your epilepsy
Remember, you don’t have to tell an employer about your epilepsy but for employers to be able to meet health and safety regulations, they need to know whether their employees have any medical conditions that could affect their work.
If your employer knows about your epilepsy they can consider making adjustments to your work or environment for you and organising epilepsy awareness training. If your colleagues know about your epilepsy they can also help if you do have a seizure in the office.
Tip 2 - Find out how the law affects you
Before you start working, make sure you understand your employer’s responsibilities relating to your Health and Safety. As an employee, you are also responsible for your own safety at work and the safety of your colleagues. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says that employers are responsible for making sure that all their employees are safe at work and are protected from possible dangers to their health. However, if you don't tell them about your epilepsy, you cannot hold them responsible for not making adjustments for you.
People with epilepsy are also covered by the Equality Act which aims to protect people against disability discrimination in the workplace. Because epilepsy is a physical, long-term condition, people with epilepsy are protected under the Equality Act, even if their seizures are controlled or if they don’t consider themselves to be ‘disabled’.
Tip 3 - Help is available
There are organisations out there ready to help you with any questions or issues you have around work. Here are a few of them:
• Jobcentre Plus have Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) who provide support to people with disabilities
• Access to Work is a government scheme that supports people who are disabled in paid work, or about to start paid work. It can help to fund solutions to help you in your work. For example, if you aren’t able to drive to work due to your epilepsy, and there is no suitable public transport, it may pay for a taxi so that you can get to work.
• Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offer free confidential and independent advice to people needing information around employment law
• Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) – advice for employers and employees
• Epilepsy Society helpline - our specialist helpline is here to help anyone affected by epilepsy
You can find further information on work and employment on our website, including types of jobs and information for employers.
Having epilepsy does not necessarily stop someone from doing the job they want, but there are some issues which can affect them at work. Whether someone’s epilepsy affects their work depends on whether they have seizures, what their seizures are like and how often these happen.
Having seizures, or being told “you have epilepsy”, can affect people in different ways. This includes driving, sleep, work and travel.
Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different 'epilepsies' with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.