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Information for people with epilepsy
As for anybody, the type of work you can do depends on your skills, qualifications, and experience. It may also depend on how your epilepsy affects you.
Please take our employment survey to tell us about your experiences.
Can I do any job I want?
- cover you from when you apply for a job, throughout your work - including promotion and training - to when you leave it; and
- apply whether you have a disability when you apply for a job or if your disability starts once you are employed.
Employers cannot legally refuse to give you a job just because you have epilepsy. However, they may need to consider your epilepsy, and what the job involves, to ensure your safety and that of other employees.
Safety at work
Risks to safety will depend on what your epilepsy is like and what the job involves.
Some jobs may be a risk if you have seizures. For example, working at heights, near open water or around unguarded machinery. As each situation is different, your employer may need to do a risk assessment to look at how your epilepsy could affect your safety at work.
Can I do a job that involves driving?
- For a Group 1 - car and motorbike - licence you must be seizure-free for one year, either on or off anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). (The regulations are different if you only have seizures while you are asleep).
- For a Group 2 - LGV or PCV - licence you must be seizure-free, without AEDs, for 10 years.
If you meet the DVLA regulations to drive, you should be able to do a job that involves driving. Some employers use the DVLA regulations to help them assess risk. For example, if the DVLA say that you can drive a car, your employer may decide you can work with machinery.
Whether or not you can work on active service in the Armed Forces (Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy) depends on your epilepsy. For example, if you have epilepsy you would not be able to join the Armed Forces, but if you had epilepsy as a child (under five years old) or a single seizure more than 10 years ago, you may be able to join.
Other health and safety regulations
Many professions have a governing body that sets health and safety regulations. The governing body will usually look at your individual situation to see whether you can do the job safely. Contact the relevant governing body for your job for further details on their recruitment policies and guidelines.
"The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that as a disabled person, you have, as far as is reasonable, the same access to everything that is involved in getting and doing a job as a non-disabled person." Equality and Human Rights Commission.
An employer needs to consider making adjustments that can help you to do a job as well as any other employee. This means looking at:
- anything about the job that is difficult for you to do
- anything about the work environment that makes it difficult for you to do the job, and
- whether any changes to the job or work environment would help to overcome these problems.
Adjustments vary and will depend on how your epilepsy affects you and your work. Your employer can make adjustments when you apply for a job, or at any time during your employment.
Adjustments for your epilepsy could include:
- changing your working hours to avoid shift work if you have seizures that are brought on by tiredness
- making changes to the building or office to make it safer
- getting or changing equipment
- time off for medical appointments.
Help with finding a job
You can look for a job through your local Jobcentre Plus office, personal contacts, newspaper and website adverts or employment agencies.
Jobcentre Plus offices have Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) who provide support to people with disabilities. They can help with assessments, referral to schemes for people with disabilities (such as Work Choice), job matching, and information on employers who are positive about employing people with disabilities.
If you are on benefits, you can ask your local Jobcentre Plus about how your benefits might be affected.
Visit the Gov website for more details (opens in a new window).
Telling people about your epilepsy
Do I have to tell my employer?
You don’t have to tell an employer about your epilepsy, although there are several reasons why this can help you (see below).
Some people worry that telling an employer about their epilepsy could affect their chance of getting a job or being treated fairly at work. Although discrimination can happen, the Equality Act 2010 aims to protect you from discrimination, and help your employer to treat you fairly and support you at work. Having the right information about your epilepsy can help employers to do this.
Reasons why telling an employer about your epilepsy may help you:
Employers have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act. For employers to be able to meet the health and safety regulations, they need to know whether their employees have any medical conditions that could affect their work. Employers can only ask you questions about your health to help keep you and others safe at work, and to help you to be able to do your job. If your employer knows about your epilepsy they may make changes to your job or environment to make it safer for you. If you don’t tell your employer, you can’t hold them responsible for not doing safety assessments for you.
Employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments. If your employer knows about your epilepsy, they can make reasonable adjustments to your work or environment for you. But if your employer does not know about your epilepsy, you can’t hold them responsible for not making reasonable adjustments that may help.
The people you work with will be more able to help you if you have a seizure. Often people feel more comfortable with epilepsy if they understand it and know what to do if someone has a seizure. This might help you, and them, feel more confident about what will happen if you have a seizure at work. It might also be helpful to have some epilepsy awareness training at work.
When is the best time to tell a new employer about my epilepsy?
If you decide to tell your new employer about your epilepsy, there are several opportunities for you to do this.
- You could include a covering letter with your application explaining about your epilepsy. This could include details from your GP or neurologist about your epilepsy. This may help your potential employer to understand about your epilepsy before you have an interview.
- You might want to wait until you are invited for an interview, and talk about your epilepsy face to face. This gives you an opportunity to sell yourself, and your skills and experience, before mentioning your epilepsy.
- You might want to wait until a final interview, or you are offered the job, before mentioning your epilepsy.
Once you have told your new employer about your epilepsy, they might do a risk assessment and consider reasonable adjustments for you. They may get medical advice, or ask a health and safety or occupational health expert to help.
Access to Work is a scheme that supports people with disabilities and their employers. If you have problems or particular needs at work because of your epilepsy, Access to Work may be able to help find solutions. For example, they may be able to fund reasonable adjustments such as equipment or extra support at work, or help with the cost of getting to and from work if you are not able to drive or use public transport.
More information about Access to Work (opens in a new window)
Other help with travel costs
If you do not drive because of your epilepsy, you may be entitled to help with travel costs.
You can apply for a railcard to get discounted rail fares. Call 0845 605 0525 or visit www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk
You can also apply for a free national bus pass to travel around the UK. To apply, contact your local council, or Gov wesbite for more information.
Can I lose my job because of my epilepsy?
If you are already in a job and you develop epilepsy, or if your epilepsy changes and starts to cause problems at work, you might be worried about losing your job.
Under the Equality Act, your employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments so that you can carry on working.
If you develop epilepsy, or your seizures are difficult to control, you may be referred to a specialist to review your epilepsy. The review may help with making decisions about your job. For example, it may help to identify reasonable adjustments for you. Some adjustments may be temporary while your epilepsy is being reviewed or treated, and some adjustments may need to change over time.
Who can I talk to?
You may want to talk to your line manager, or someone in your personnel or human resources department if you have one, about how you are feeling. Talking about any problems or concerns you have might help them to support you or look for reasonable adjustments that would help you.
Epilepsy Society's helpline offers support to anyone affected by epilepsy.
Help with work, skills and training
Jobcentre Plus - Provides information on training and employment. Disability Employment Advisers can provide support for people with disabilities. They have details of Access to Work teams. More information from the Government website Gov
learndirect - Information on learndirect centres and courses.
Local libraries and local colleges - Details of adult and further education courses. See your local phone book.
National Extension College - Information about Open (Distance) Learning.
Open University - Information about Open (Distance) Learning courses.
Remploy - supports people with disabilities into work.
Shaw Trust - supports people with disabilities into work.
Disability Rights UK - information to support people with disabilities in education and training.
Local volunteer bureau or Volunteering England - Volunteering can give you new skills and can show your commitment and initiative.
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) - Advice for employers and employees.
Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) - Local CABs offer free confidential and independent advice.
Disability Law Service - A national charity offering free legal advice to individuals about the Equality Act and employment.
Equality and Human Rights Commission - Offers information promoting equality.
Health and Safety Executive - Guidance on health and safety legislation.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) - Independent organisation providing information on pension schemes.
Trade Unions - Contact your work personnel or human resources department. Most trade unions have positive policies on the employment of people with disabilities and can help in cases of discrimination.
You can order a copy of our leaflet 'employment' from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.
© Epilepsy Society
Information produced in September 2012