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Telling people in the workplace about your epilepsy

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.

Once you have been offered a job, you don’t automatically have to tell your employer about your epilepsy. This is as long as you don’t believe it will affect your ability to do your job safely and effectively. This could be, for example, if your epilepsy is well controlled, or you only ever have seizures when you are asleep.

If you don’t tell your employer about your epilepsy and it does affect your ability to do your job safely, your employer may be able to dismiss you. To do this, they would have to prove that:

  • You have been given the opportunity to tell them how your epilepsy could affect your job and
  • You haven’t given them this information

If you are not sure whether to tell your employer about your epilepsy, here are some things to think about:

Reasonable adjustment

If your employer doesn’t know about your epilepsy, they can’t make any reasonable adjustments to help you.

Health and Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is a law that says that all employers have to provide a safe workplace. They must protect all their employees from any possible danger to their health, while they are at work. As an employee, you also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety at work. If your epilepsy could cause a health or safety risk to you or anybody else, you must tell your employer about it. This is the law.

More information about the Health and Safety at Work Act is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Websites: hse.gov.uk (for England, Scotland and Wales); nidirect.gov.uk (for Northern Ireland)

Employer’s insurance

Your employer’s insurance may pay you compensation if you are injured at work, or if you become ill because of your work. If you don’t tell your employer about your epilepsy, you will not be fully covered by their insurance. So, you may not receive any compensation if you have an accident related to your epilepsy.

More information about employer’s insurance is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Websites: hse.gov.uk (for England, Scotland and Wales); nidirect.gov.uk (for Northern Ireland)

When to tell your employer about your epilepsy

If you decide to tell your employer about your epilepsy, it’s useful to do it before you start the job. This gives them time to make any reasonable adjustments you need. If you don’t tell them about your epilepsy before you start a job, you can change your mind and tell them at any time. As soon as your employer knows about your epilepsy, they have to make any reasonable adjustment that could be helpful for you.

Telling people you work with

It’s your decision, whether you tell the people you work with about your epilepsy. But if you do, they will probably feel more confident about helping you if you have a seizure.

If you think it would help, you could ask your employer to arrange some epilepsy awareness training for your colleagues.

Epilepsy Action has information about epilepsy awareness training

Can my employer tell other people about my epilepsy?

Yes, if you give them permission, and sign a consent form. But they can’t tell other people about your epilepsy without your permission. This is to comply with the Data Protection Act.

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.

Code: 
B135.05

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 August 2018
    To be reviewed August 2019

Comments: read the 4 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi I have been working on the roads for many years with no problems from employers. My epilepsy is well control no fits for 12 years. In April my job was transferred to another company who I gave full access to my records before the take over. This week nearly 3 months on I have been told I am unfit to do my job as the new company that have taken over the road maintainance contract say their company policy to work on the roads is you need to be able to pass a HGV medical.

Submitted by Gary yelland on

Hi Gary

I wonder why they want you to do that. Are you required to drive any large vehicles in your job? If so, then you may need to hold a Group 2 licence. However, they must be clear that everyone else meets the HGV criteria, not just you.

If you are not required to drive large vehicles, the company would need to be able to justify why they are asking for this. If they can’t offer a clear and reasonable justification then this may be an act of discrimination. You may want to see if you can get the requirement and its justification in writing.

If it then looks worth challenging, you could use our template letter to help with this. You could also ask them why you haven’t been considered unsafe during the last three months, and what has changed to make you unsafe now.

If you’re in a union it would be a good idea to be talking to them. For further help you may want to contact either ACAS the employment helpline. Their number is 0300 123 1100. Or the Equality Advisory Support Service. Their advice line is 0808 800 0082.

I really hope it’s possible to get it sorted.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry-Epilepsy... on

I have been working for my present employer since November 2017 and I based at capita call centre, doing call centre work.

I have mild epilepsy which is mostly well controlled, but I do get some minor absence seizures sometimes. When I had started the training
course in November 2016, I was told by the course trainer that I will need to have a occupational health assessment. Since starting in the call centre office in December 2016, I have had five managers in total and they have been made of my medical condition. Each manager that I have I have asked for a occupational health assessment and each one has promised this will be done. But a occupational health assessment has not been done.

I do sometimes suffer minor absence seizures in the workplace and had informed the previous manager that I do suffer from these. Is it a legal requirement for this to be done in the workplace? I would like to have a occupational health assessment for my own peace of mind.

I have informed the company hr department about my epilepsy. I am a member of a working union and I have thought about contacting them with regards to this because I am not happy with this situation.

From

Joanna Speakman

Submitted by Joanna Speakman on
Hello Joanna
 
This sounds like a challenging situation to find yourself in.
 
The decision to ask for a health and safety risk assessment at work is a very personal one. When deciding whether you want to ask for it to happen it can be worth thinking about what you would like to happen as a result of it. So, exploring things such as:
·         does your epilepsy impact on your work, if it does in what way?
·         What do you feel needs to happen which isn’t already happening?
·         Are there any reasonable adjustments which you feel your employer could make which may support you in your workplace?
 
A health and safety risk assessment can be a good way to explore these things with your employer and identify and reasonable adjustment they could make. It can also be useful to make sure that you are covered by their insurance if you were to have a seizure at work.
 
I have included some links to information on our website which I hope are useful. You may also find it helpful to take a look at our TUC guide. If you feel your managers do not agree with your request for a risk assessment then this may support you and your union representative to talk it through and take action.
 
If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again.
Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team
Submitted by rich on

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