Our Helpline and Information Officer, Uschi Stickroth, looks at some of the facts every person with epilepsy looking for work should know.
COVID-19 has interrupted our lives on so many fronts. While many of us have been able to safely switch to working from home or online, others sadly have lost their job.
It can be daunting looking for work during a pandemic, but if you have a long-term health condition or disability such as epilepsy it can sometimes feel twice as hard.
Here are some of the key facts every person with epilepsy looking for work should know.
1. Epilepsy is a disability covered by the Equality Act
This gives you the right not to be discriminated against because of your epilepsy.
Other professions will of course have to do their own risk assessments and may have stricter entrance criteria based on health & safety, such as pilots or train drivers.
2. You have a right to a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act to support you in your work
Your employer is not doing you a favour, they have a legal obligation to support you because of your epilepsy.
A reasonable adjustment could for example be more flexible start and finishing times to suit public transport timetables if you cannot drive because of your epilepsy.
3. The Equality Act gives you the right not to be discriminated
The Equality Act also gives you the right not to be discriminated against because of something which is associated with your epilepsy.
For example, if your memory is affected by your seizures, your employer will need to look at making some reasonable adjustments to help with your memory issues because these are a direct result of your epilepsy.
4. It is up to you if/when you want to disclose your epilepsy to your employer
It is often a good idea to let your employer know you have epilepsy, especially if you continue to have seizures so that you can discuss any support or reasonable adjustments you may need.
5. By law you only have to disclose your epilepsy if there is a clear health and safety risk to you and others because of your epilepsy
This would usually mean working with machinery, hazardous chemicals, at height, or on/near water. Health and Safety laws always override any rights under the Equality Act.
6. An employer cannot withdraw a job offer without doing a risk assessment
An employer cannot withdraw a job offer without doing a risk assessment looking at how your epilepsy affects you in your unique way, including your type of seizures, frequency and pattern.
They will need to look at reasonable adjustments to make work safe for you.
Only if the job cannot be made safe, can they withdraw the job offer, but this needs to be based on health & safety grounds, not because of your epilepsy.
7. A prospective employer is not allowed to ask health related questions during the interview process
This is to ensure that only your skills and experience will be taken into account.
However, there are some exemptions. For example, a health-related question can be asked to find out if an applicant needs a reasonable adjustment to attend the interview.