According to Epilepsy Action, 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy in the UK every day. With approximately 600,000 people in the UK living with epilepsy, that means almost 1% of the population has it. When it comes to finding work, how might our career opportunities be affected and what are our legal obligations if we have epilepsy?

FAQ: What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition typified by recurring seizures. It affects around 1% of the British population.


Work Life For People With Epilepsy


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Epilepsy is one of the most common, serious neurological conditions in the world. In the UK alone, there are over 200,000 people of working age identifying epilepsy as a main health condition. Yet, data from the ONS has revealed the employment rate for those with epilepsy is far lower than for the majority of other disabilities. In fact, just 34% of working age people with epilepsy are in employment.

Naturally, a lot of people with epilepsy worry about the impact of their condition on their ability to find and secure employment. Unfortunately, despite the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 and the overwhleming majority of conscientious, considered businesses throughout the UK, there remains a frustratingly persistent undercurrent of (perhaps unintentional) discrimination within the workplace.

Under the above law, it is illegal for an employer or potential employer to treat any persons with a disability less favourably than someone without.


What Does This Mean For My Career Opportunities?


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Having epilepsy does not mean you cannot pursue the career of your dreams. The majority of career paths are absolutely viable for those with epilepsy.

It does, however, mean that there will be a higher likelihood of difficulty in securing positions in roles relating to:

  • Driving (subject to meeting the DVLA's medical standards for the type of licence required)
  • The Armed Forces (not covered by equality laws)
  • Any position where the risk of seizure puts you, or others, at high risk of injury (i.e. regularly working at heights)

FAQ: Can epilepsy be cured?
Whilst AEDs (anti-epileptic drugs) which control the electrical activity in the brain to reduce or remove the occurrence of seizures are available, there are no drugs currently available that can cure epilepsy. It is possible that the condition will abate with age, and some people can have their epilepsy cured through brain surgery, however for many people epilepsy is a life-long condition.


Legal Requirements For Declaring Your Condition To Employers


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In the UK, it is not a legal requirement to inform your employer if you have epilepsy. However, under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) it is a legal requirement to disclose your condition if ‘your epilepsy could cause a health or safety risk to you or anybody else’. If you choose not to and your condition impacts your ability to engage with your responsibilities safely, your job security could be at risk.

If your employer could prove you had been given a clear opportunity to disclose

  • that you have epilepsy,
  • how it could affect your ability and
  • that you had elected to not inform them,

they would potentially have reasonable grounds to dismiss you.

There are other benefits to being open about having epilepsy too. For example:

Insurance

The insurance that your employer provides may be invalidated if you do not declare your condition. This would mean that if you suffered an accident or injury at work as a result of your epilepsy, the omission of your condition would mean you would not be fully covered by the insurance policy. As a consequence this could result in disqualification from any compensation you would have otherwise been entitled to.

Reasonable Workplace Adjustments

By disclosing your condition, you are explicitly providing your employer with the opportunity to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace in order to more safely accommodate your needs. In the UK, it is a legal requirement for all employers ‘to provide a safe workplace’ for their employees. However, under this same law, it is equally required that, as an employee, you are responsible to take ‘reasonable care’ for your own and others’ safety.

Changing attitudes

Philip Lee, chief executive at Epilepsy Action, makes the point that “Increased knowledge and a change in attitudes are the only ways we can start to close this inequality gap”. Whilst employers should be called upon to make it their business to learn more about epilepsy and improve workplace culture to create a more level and inclusive playing field, being open and honest with your employer can help others. Highlighting how common the condition is and just how able those with epilepsy are to undertake their chosen career lays the path for the next generation of workers or those seeking employment to join the workforce!

FAQ: What are the types of epileptic seizure?
There are many types of seizure that can occur. Some people with epilepsy may experience multiple types whilst others may only experience one. Types of seizure include: focal, absence, myoclonic, tonic-clonic, tonic and atonic seizures. Epilepsy Action provides a detailed breakdown of common seizure types


The Silver Lining


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There is, of course, a very strong and valid requirement for turning the tide of any remaining stigma towards the condition in the workplace: increased knowledge and awareness, coupled with a shift in attitude.

Epilepsy is not a one-size-fits-all medical condition and its severity can range across a broad spectrum. Many people are able to lead a working life with only minor adjustments, whilst others struggle to work at all.

With the exception of a very small cluster of professions, people with epilepsy should not encounter any discrimination against their candidacy for employment, unless there are strong, reasonable grounds for concern in relation to health and safety.

One of the many advantages of a MedicAlert membership is the security wearing medical ID jewellery brings. It reassures an employer that any potential worry they may feel about being responsible for remembering your medical requirements in an emergency is removed from their shoulders, providing them (and you) with the peace of mind that your information is to hand if and when it is needed. The rest of the time, your information is hidden on the reverse of the jewellery’s disc, retaining your privacy in a discreet manner.

First responders can be quickly made aware of your condition if you do find yourself in a medical emergency. It also guarantees absolute accuracy, as your medical records are checked by registered medical professionals who ensure the record is medically sound and prioritised for use in emergencies upon creation and every time they are updated.

MedicAlert is a community of members, all of whom are living with a wide range of health-related issues, including epilepsy. We are here to support all of our members through providing 24/7 emergency access to their medical records in emergencies, ensuring the most efficient, reliable and accessible route for medical professionals in times of need.


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