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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disability confident and two ticks symbols
When you’re looking for work, look out for job adverts and applications with either the ‘disability confident’ symbol or the ‘positive about disabled people’ symbol (with 2 ticks). Both symbols mean the employer is committed to employing disabled people. If the job advert displays either 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:
This can help you find a job, and get support when you start work (available in England, Scotland and Wales).
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.
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
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 2015To be reviewed October 2018