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#BeyondSeizure – What employers can do to help an employee who has epilepsy

Our Communications Officer, David Coates looks at some of the good practices that employers can undertake to help their employees who are living with epilepsy.

For someone who lives with epilepsy and is trying to gain employment, these aims may seem incredibly difficult to achieve.

The challenges in their daily lives combined with those encountered or anticipated in the workplace may seem insurmountable.

Equally, for someone already in work who is newly diagnosed with the condition, there may be anxiety about how they will manage their continued employment.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a number of good practice measures that can help employers and their employees to maintain a positive working relationship.


Reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that a person with a disability is not at a disadvantage compared to someone without a disability.

Not everyone with epilepsy will need adjustments and any that are needed will vary, depending on the person’s needs.

Reasonable adjustments for people with epilepsy could include:

  • allowing a person whose seizures occur while sleeping to start and finish later.
  • providing a quiet place where a person can rest after a seizure.
  • re-arranging working hours for a person who has lost their driving licence and cannot get in on time by public transport.

What is reasonable for one employer/organisation may not be considered reasonable for another.

It will depend upon factors like the size of the organisation and the cost. It also depends on the effect introducing the adjustment will have, such as any potential disruption to process or colleagues and staff time involved.


Seizure triggers

Some people know that particular situations can trigger or bring on their seizures. These can include being tired, stressed or anxious.

If someone’s seizures are triggered by tiredness, shift work could make them more tired and trigger seizures.

This is because shift work can disturb the normal pattern of sleep. A reasonable adjustment may be to consider changing or reducing shift work or changing working hours for this person.


Sick leave

As an employer, it is good practice to record disability and non-disability-related work absences separately.

With epilepsy, some work absences may appear to be unrelated, such as headaches, tiredness, and sore limbs, but they may actually be linked.

After a seizure, people with epilepsy can experience all of these symptoms and need time to recover.

A reasonable adjustment could involve a person with epilepsy being allowed more short-term work absences than are detailed in the general sickness policy.

Sickness policies need to be flexible to take into account the unique nature of epilepsy. Despite this, research shows that people with epilepsy usually have no more work absences than people who do not have epilepsy.


Epilepsy awareness in the workplace

A practical way of supporting an employee is to encourage epilepsy awareness among their supervisors and co-workers.

Epilepsy awareness in the workplace means giving employees an understanding of things such as:

  • What epilepsy is
  • Types of seizures
  • Basic seizure first aid
  • Common seizure triggers

Epilepsy often carries a social stigma, which is based on ignorance and fear. Understanding more about the condition and knowing what to do if someone has a seizure greatly helps reduce any anxieties.

You can find out what training courses Epilepsy Scotland provides by clicking here.

Using good practice towards people living with epilepsy can help an organisation benefit from their skills and identify any issues early in order to avoid more significant problems developing further down the line.