We exist to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

Looking for work

The information in this section is about epilepsy and working in the UK. If you live outside the UK, you can find out about working and epilepsy in your country by contacting your local epilepsy group

What type of work can I do?

It depends on how your epilepsy affects your daily life, and what skills and experience you have.

Which jobs might not be open to me because of my epilepsy?

Very few. Employers shouldn’t use your epilepsy as a reason not to give you a job, unless they have very good reason. Here are some possible reasons.

Health and Safety
An employer can legally refuse to give you a job if your epilepsy poses a health and safety risk to you or somebody else. For example, if you are still having seizures, they could refuse to give you a job where climbing ladders is a substantial part of the job.

Driving
An employer can refuse to give you a driving job if you don’t hold the right type of driving licence. For example, if you have had seizures in the last 10 years, legally you are not allowed to hold a licence that allows you to drive heavy goods vehicles. So, an employer can refuse to employ you as a lorry driver.

Armed Forces
Jobs in the Armed Forces are not covered by the equality laws. This means the Armed Forces can refuse to employ you because you have epilepsy or a history of epilepsy.

Epilepsy Action has more information on the UK Armed Forces and epilepsy

Can I be asked questions about my health before I’m offered a job?

It depends. If you apply for a job, employers aren’t generally allowed to ask you questions about your health before they offer you the job. This includes questions about your previous sickness absence. And, at this stage, they can’t refer you to an occupational health adviser or ask you to fill in a questionnaire provided by an occupational health adviser.

However, employers are allowed to ask questions about your health or any medical conditions before they offer you a job, if they have a good reason. This might be because they need to make a reasonable adjustment for your job interview or for an assessment. Or, the employer might need to know if there are health and safety reasons why you couldn’t do the essential duties of a specific job, such as working at heights.

If, without good cause, the employer asks questions about your health before offering you a job, they can’t rely on this information when making a decision about the job. If they do, this would be disability discrimination.

Application forms
Employers should only ask you to fill in a medical questionnaire before offering you a job when this is essential. And the questions must be targeted on the essential duties of the job. So, if an application form includes questions about your health, and you don’t feel this is relevant. You can choose to ignore them.

However, they could ask if you need any reasonable adjustment to be made for an interview. For example, they could ask if you need extra time to do a test.

Job interviews
During an interview, an employer is only allowed to ask questions about your health if they are directly linked to an essential aspect of the job you are applying for. As an example, they could ask how your epilepsy could affect your ability to do that job safely.

If your ability to do the job safely and effectively is not affected by your epilepsy, you don’t need to mention it. An example of this could be if you only have seizures when you are asleep, or your seizures are well controlled.

Epilepsy Action has more information about the equality laws

Sources of help and support when looking for work

The Disability Employment Adviser (DEA)

A DEA can help you in your search for work, or to gain new skills. They can also tell you about disability friendly employers in your area.

To have an appointment with a DEA, you need to be already receiving certain benefits. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus. You can find their number in the Phone Book, or search for ‘Jobcentre Plus’ online.

Two ticks adverts

When you’re looking for work, look for the ‘positive about disabled people’ symbol (with 2 ticks) on adverts and application forms. The symbol means the employer is committed to employing disabled people. If a job advert displays the symbol, you’ll be guaranteed an interview if you meet the basic conditions for the job.

Work programmes and grants

Your Disability Employment Adviser can tell you about programmes and grants to help you back into work. These include:

Work Choice
This can help you find a job, and get support when you start work (available in England, Scotland and Wales).

Residential training
This can give you work experience and training. There are nine residential training providers located throughout England and one in Northern Ireland. But there are no providers in Wales or Scotland. Some providers may take students from Wales or Scotland.

Access to Work
An Access to Work grant could provide money towards a support worker, or for the cost of equipment, or travelling to work. It can also provide money for disability awareness training for your colleagues. Access to work is available in England, Scotland and Wales. Access to Work NI offers a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.

More information about Access to Work is available from GOV.UK and nidirect.gov.uk

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. .

Code: 
B135.04

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Professor Sayeed Khan, Specialist in Occupational Medicine, Chief Medical Adviser to EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation and Judith Hogarth, Solicitor, Excello Law, for their contribution.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated October 2015
    To be reviewed October 2018

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours

Comments

After a horrific year, where I was bullied ceaselessly by 2 under managers and finally went to my boss, explaining that my epilepsy was getting worse, because of this t was ( I was reduced to sleeping on a mattress on the floor, because I had fallen out of bed).

I was seconded to a job somewhere else, The person whose job I was covering was on long term sick Leave. 2 weeks in, I found out she was taking voluntary early retirement and the job was being given to someone else who was losing their job in department restructure. I also applied for a job I had done before - and very well I had been told -was turned down for it, and it was given to a person who had been with the service for 2 months. It was the neatest thing you ever saw!

I got in touch with ACAS months ago, unless i had exact names, dates and times, I gathered nothing could be done.

This was a witch-hunt. It certainly made the epilepsy worse, and I can do nothing. Until I actually loose my job, even the disability support agencies cannot help.

I will be back on a zero hours contract I was a casual and that is my substansive post and I can do nothing. I was good at my job, and very keen, but my face did not fit.

Please be warned. This happens and there is then no help. Can anyone offer any suggestions?

I'd be really grateful

Submitted by izzy on

I am a long term sufferer of Epilepsy now I suffer more from the side affects of medication also. I worked for 15years for a good company but became ill due a side effect it took a long time to correct it nearly a year the company could not keep me on despite keeping them up to date two months after the final correction I was fit to work but the company had finished me on medical grounds (If honest I took a while longer to walk correctly)with exercise etc I never got back to work as I now have other illnesses but wished I could work at home doing what I don't know good with a PC due to the years of working with one. Now ill again with side effects of medication.

Submitted by Debs on