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telling your employer about your epilepsy

Some people worry that telling an employer about their epilepsy might 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. It also helps your employer to treat you fairly and support you at work. Having the right information about your epilepsy can help employers to do this.

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 could help you (see below).

Reasons for telling your employer

  • 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?

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, so that you can 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 until you are offered the job, before mentioning your epilepsy.

Once you have told your new employer about your epilepsy, they may 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.

Worried about losing your job?

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.

Rather than just dismissing you, your employer needs to consider what other options are available to keep you at work. They need to find out whether there is anything about your job that could put you, or your colleagues or clients, at risk if you have a seizure. They then need to look at how any risks due to your seizures can be reduced.

Under the Equality Act 2010, your employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments so that you can carry on working. The Equality Act aims to make sure that people with a disability are not treated unfairly compared to a person without a disability, because of their disability and without a good reason.

If you develop epilepsy or if your seizures are difficult to control, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to review your epilepsy. This 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.

How to deal with discrimination

Find out about equality law and disability discrimination.

Taken from our Employment leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.

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