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Working With Epilepsy

Working With Epilepsy

Entering the world of work can be challenging at the best of times, but if you have epilepsy it can be even more difficult. The advice in this article is for people with epilepsy who work, are thinking of getting back into work, or are about to start a new job.

Can I Be Fired for Having Epilepsy?

You may be worried about losing your job if you develop epilepsy, or if you already had epilepsy but the symptoms are becoming an issue.

People with disabilities should not be treated unfairly compared to those without disabilities under the Equality Act. In fact, under this act, it is your employer’s responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to make sure you are able to keep your job. Your employer is not allowed to fire you for having a disability.

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to review your epilepsy if you are newly diagnosed, or if your seizures are becoming a problem. The specialist may be able to help you make some decisions about working. They may be able to suggest some reasonable adjustments your employer can make for you, for example. Some adjustments may need to change over time, and others may only need to be temporary.

Epilepsy varies from person to person, and it’s important that you and your employer recognise this. Some people will have seizures regularly, but with the right medication, up to 70% of people with the condition could stop having seizures and continue working to no disadvantage.

Top Tip: Tell People about Your Epilepsy

Your employer needs to know whether their employees have any medical conditions that could affect their work for health and safety reasons, but you aren’t required to tell your employer the specific nature of your condition.

If you feel comfortable doing so, telling your employer about your epilepsy can be beneficial as it will allow them to organise epilepsy awareness training or make adjustments to improve your work environment. If you do have a seizure in the office, it’s good for colleagues to understand a little about your condition so they know what’s happening and how they can help.

Are There Any Jobs I Can’t Have with Epilepsy?

There are very few positions that won’t be open to you as a result of your condition. Unless they have a very good reason, employers shouldn’t use your epilepsy as a reason not to employ you. That said, they may not be able to give you the job in certain circumstances, for the following reasons:

Health and Safety

If your epilepsy poses a health and safety risk to you or somebody else, it is legal for an employer to refuse you the position. For instance, if climbing ladders is a big part of the job you’re applying for and you are unable to control your seizures, you would not be a safe choice for that position.

Motor Vehicles

If you don’t hold the right type of driving licence, an employer is allowed to turn you down for driving jobs. Licences that allow you to drive heavy goods vehicles are only available to people who haven’t had a seizure in the last 10 years. This means a job as a lorry driver may not be the one for you (yet)!

Army

Equality laws do not cover jobs in the Armed Forces. If you have epilepsy or a history of epilepsy, the Armed Forces are allowed to turn you down.

Top Tip: Brush Up on the Law

Make sure you have a good understanding of your rights and your employer’s responsibilities to your health and safety before you begin working anywhere. Employers are responsible for protecting their employees from possible dangers to their health under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and they must make sure that all of their employees are safe at work.

You cannot hold your employer responsible for failing to make adjustments for you if you don’t tell them about your epilepsy.

The Equality Act exists to protect people from being discriminated against in the workplace, and this act covers people with epilepsy. Even if you don’t consider yourself to have a disability, and even if you do not currently have seizures, the Equality Act covers you as a person with a physical, long-term condition.

Epilepsy varies from person to person, and it’s important that you and your employer recognise this. Some people will have seizures regularly, but with the right medication, up to 70% of people with the condition could stop having seizures and continue working to no disadvantage.  

Top Tip: Tell People about Your Epilepsy

Your employer needs to know whether their employees have any medical conditions that could affect their work for health and safety reasons, but you aren’t required to tell your employer the specific nature of your condition.

If you feel comfortable doing so, telling your employer about your epilepsy can be beneficial as it will allow them to organise epilepsy awareness training or make adjustments to improve your work environment. If you do have a seizure in the office, it’s good for colleagues to understand a little about your condition so they know what’s happening and how they can help.

Are There Any Jobs I Can’t Have with Epilepsy?

There are very few positions that won’t be open to you as a result of your condition. Unless they have a very good reason, employers shouldn’t use your epilepsy as a reason not to employ you. That said, they may not be able to give you the job in certain circumstances, for the following reasons:

Health and Safety

If your epilepsy poses a health and safety risk to you or somebody else, it is legal for an employer to refuse you the position. For instance, if climbing ladders is a big part of the job you’re applying for and you are unable to control your seizures, you would not be a safe choice for that position.

Will My Employer Tell People about My Condition?

If you sign a consent form and give your employer permission to tell other people about your epilepsy, they may tell people. Without your permission, however, they are not allowed to tell other people about your epilepsy under the Data Protection Act.

Top Tip: Ask for Help

If you have any issues or queries around work, there are plenty of organisations who are able to help you out. These include…

  • Jobcentre Plus – People with disabilities can get help from their Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs).
  • CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) – If you need information around employment law, CAB can give you free independent and confidential advice.
  • Epilepsy Society Helpline – Those affected by epilepsy can find support through this specialist helpline.
  • Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services (ACAS) – advice for employers and employees.
  • Access to work – You and your employer can both access support through this scheme.

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