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Epilepsy and the UK Armed Forces

The UK Armed Forces includes the army, navy and air force.

The possibilities of joining the UK Armed Forces if you have epilepsy are very limited.

This page includes information about how the UK Armed Forces views:

  • epilepsy, single seizures and febrile convulsions
  • provoked seizures
  • childhood absence seizures and
  • benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood

It also includes information about what may happen if you have a seizure once employed by the Armed Forces.


Epilepsy, single seizures and febrile convulsions

You would NOT be able to join the army, navy, or air force, if:

  • You have been diagnosed with epilepsy and you have had more than one seizure since the age of five years or
  • You have had a single seizure in the last 5 years. If you have had a single seizure in the last 5 to 10 years you may be suitable for some restricted professions

You MAY be able to join the army, navy, or air force, if:

  • You have had febrile convulsions before the age of 6, and no seizures since then, or
  • You have had a single seizure more than 10 years ago, and have not been on treatment since then

Provoked seizures

This is defined as a seizure that has a specific cause which is not likely to recur. If you have had a provoked seizure, this will be assessed on an individual basis. The Single Service Occupational Physician responsible for the selection of recruits will be able to advise you.

Childhood absence seizures

You may be considered fit for employment if:

  • You have a history of childhood absence seizures which started before the age of 10 years and
  • You have had no seizures or treatment for the last 5 years

Benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood

You may be considered fit for employment if:

  • You have a confirmed diagnosis of typical benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood and
  • You have been seizure-free without treatment for the last 5 years.

Seizures once employed by the Armed Forces

If you have only had one seizure, you are usually downgraded for 18 months. You may also be restricted in driving and handling weapons.

If you have had more than one seizure you are usually considered unfit for any trade in the army, navy, or air force.

If it is discovered, after being employed, that you have not mentioned a disqualifying medical condition that you knew about beforehand, then you may be administratively discharged because of failure to declare this at enlistment.

For more information contact the Single Service Occupational Physician responsible for the selection of recruits in your area.

This information is taken from the Joint Services Publication, joint system of medical classifications JSP 950 parts 4 and 5. It was last updated in November 2017.

Code: 
F082.04
Event Date: 
Thursday 9 November 2017

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Col (Retd) RD George OStJ for reviewing this information.

This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.

  • Updated November 2017
    To be reviewed November 2020

Comments: read the 10 comments or add yours

Comments

Is it possible for someone will occassional seizures (in my case, sometimes during my sleep) able to join the Reserves. I have previously served with the Regular Army for 11 years.

Submitted by Dominico on

Hi Dominico

We’re not sure. It may be the medical requirements are the same as for the regular army. It would be best for you to contact the army recruitment careers page or call 0345 600 8080.

Regards

Diane

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I am currently doing a 2 year Apprenticeship gaining a level 3 diploma in Advanced Engineering, throughout the Apprenticeship I learn how to work with Robots, CNC machines and also Metrology. I have tuburous sclerosis which causes me to have epilepsy, I take levetiracetam 1500mg a day, I haven’t had a seizure for 2 and a half years since I started taking this medication. I am interested in joining one of the armed forces as an engineer but does my illness affect me joining the armed forces? Please advise the best actions to proceed with this

Submitted by Charlie Gould on

Hi Charlie

Here is our information about joining the Armed Forces. As you can see, the rules are very strict about people with epilepsy joining up. So I don’t think this would be possible for you.

However, you might want to check in with your local recruiting sergeant  in case your situation would be an exception in any way.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry-Epilepsy... on

My daughter had childhood epilepsy from the age of 2 and we were always told that she would grow out of it. They stopped completely when she was 8 and never had any episodes since - she is now 21. The army have rejected her application after having more than one seizure after the age of six (JSP950). Surely the army doctors know this is a childhood illness and goes before puberty? Do you have any advice?

Submitted by Steve Wright on

Hi Steve

The employment criteria for the Armed Forces are very strict and unfortunately the possibilities of joining the Armed Forces for someone with a history of epilepsy are very limited. Jobs in the Armed Forces aren’t covered by the equality laws, which means they can refuse to employ someone because they have a history of epilepsy.

It will likely depend on what type of seizures your daughter had when she was younger. In most cases the Armed Forces won’t consider someone fit for employment if they’ve had more than one seizure since the age of five. But sometimes the Armed Forces may still consider someone fit for employment if their seizures were childhood absences or if they were diagnosed with  benign rolandic epilepsy of childhood. If this is the case for your daughter it might be worth contacting them to make sure that this has been taken into consideration when reviewing her application. 

Regards

Jess

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hello,
I was given epilepsy medication 11 years ago because the doctor couldn’t diagnose me with anything specifically. I have not had any issues since then and have not taken medication in 10 years with no issues. How is my eligibility to join the army? No issues with no medication in 10 years...
Thanks

Submitted by Tom Ringo on

Hi Tom,

The restrictions on joining the UK armed forces if you have certain health conditions are very strict. However it sounds like you were never diagnosed with epilepsy, plus you have been seizure free without treatment for 10 years. Therefore in your case it may be worth contacting the army recruitment careers page or call 0345 600 8080 and asking them specifically about your situation.

Regards,

Ashley
Epilepsy Action

Submitted by Ashley - Epilep... on

I have had epilepsy since I was little and I am now 17, I am thinking of joining the army when I am around 20. I have had 3 seizures in my life 1 when I was 4 and 2 when I was 15,16. I also suffer from absence now and don’t get the proper seizures, the doctor has told me that if my body keeps going how it is that I could grow out of this by my 20s. If I do grow out of epilepsy would my history of it still affect me from getting into the army?

Submitted by Connor on

Hi Connor. I’ve replied to your email about this.

But If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry - Epilep... on

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