People working

#EpilepsyMatters: How employers can help people with epilepsy

Our helpline and information officer, Uschi, looks at some of the easy measures employers could put in place to help those with epilepsy find or stay in work.

Having epilepsy does not automatically mean you can’t work. In fact, many people we speak to are currently in work or are looking for work.

Given that there is a current staffing crisis across all sectors, it would be foolish to ignore a talented and experienced pool of people who currently live with a health condition or disability, such as epilepsy.

Yes, sadly many people with epilepsy are unable to work, but you also have a willing workforce waiting to be given a fair chance.

We often get contacted by employers looking for more information on epilepsy and ways to support their employees with epilepsy.

I always love speaking to those employers because that’s hopefully one more employee with epilepsy feeling supported and appreciated at work.

Then there are obviously the not-so-nice calls from employees who feel they are not treated fairly at work, or feel discriminated against because of their epilepsy.

A lot of the time it’s down to a total lack of understanding of epilepsy and a good dose of prejudice and stigma.


Mistake many employers make

The mistake many employers make is assuming that everyone with epilepsy is the same.

Then there’s often the assumption that a seizure is always a tonic-clonic seizure and that people bounce back almost immediately once a seizure is over.

I always remember the call I once took from an employer whose relative had epilepsy which was well controlled by medication, so they felt their employee wasn’t taking their medication properly because they still had seizures. Yes, really!

Or the person who contacted us recently because their employer had given them an ultimatum of three months for seizure control, or they would lose their job. If only it was that easy.


Making an employee with epilepsy feel valued and supported

It doesn’t have to be complicated to make an employee with epilepsy feel valued and supported.

Based on the many conversations I’ve had on the helpline around employment, here’s my top list of easy suggestions for employers:

  • Know what the Equality Act says – to make it easy, have a look at our Occupational Health and Epilepsy publication for a step-by-step guide on rights and responsibilities.
  • Assume nothing, everyone’s epilepsy is different.
  • Have a chat with your employee to find out more about their epilepsy. What does it mean for them, what type of seizures do they have, do they get a warning, do they have a trigger, and what does their recovery look like?
  • Refer your employee for an occupational health assessment to find out what further support you can give your employee.
  • Make a reasonable adjustment(s), which may just make the difference between that person being able to stay in their job or having to leave.
  • Make sure managers and staff are epilepsy aware, recognise a seizure, and know how to help. We can post you information leaflets or have a look at the publication section for more information.
  • Take advantage of our services: phone our confidential Helpline 0808 800 2200 for an initial chat, consider signing up for one of our informal online epilepsy chat sessions, or organise formal training if necessary.

You could lose out on a highly skilled and experienced individual if you ignore those with epilepsy. And, of course, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the Equality Act.

The best calls I’ve had are those from employers who genuinely want to find out more about epilepsy and value their employees. Be one of them!