Epilepsy in the Workplace FAQ’s

Though nearly 1% of the entire population with the UK lives with epilepsy, over a half a million UK people, not enough information about those living with the condition and, even more, the condition itself has made its way into the public consciousness.

Sadly most of the information that people do believe or have access to is either much too dated or simply based around misconceptions. This has led to quite a few problems within society when discussing the condition, and others like it, especially in terms of how it affects and works into a person’s work life.

Beyond the social stigma associated with discussing neurological conditions and how to best help those living with a neurological condition, the lack of open and fact based discussions creates a dangerous environment, one that is both wrought with possible injuries, death, and discrimination.

While there is certainly a lot misinformation and misconceptions that have found their way into the public consciousness about epilepsy, the best way to move forward and help people better understand the condition is by simply providing the facts as they are and educating everyone in process. So to combat, and possibly save a life, let’s discuss some of the more commonly asked questions about epilepsy and the workplace.

Does epilepsy prevent a person from being able to work?

Unfortunately this misconception surrounding epilepsy is quite prevalent as many people are unaware that a number of their colleagues and co-workers probably live with the condition without any real affect towards their personal careers.

Though epilepsy is a neurological condition that can have some serious implications for those living with the condition if an epilepsy induced seizure strikes at the wrong time, those living with the condition are able to work just as everyone else. Though this isn’t to say every position is completely safe for someone living with the condition, certainly jobs and careers that are already dangerous, only increase in risk for a person living with untreated epilepsy.

Can an employer refuse a person employment based upon their positive diagnosis of epilepsy?

Though employers may claim reasoning such as the increased safety hazards posed by an employee living with the condition or that a position is unsuited for those living with the condition, it is not legal to deny a person employment simply because they are living with epilepsy.

Fortunately for the nearly half a million people in the UK living with epilepsy the Equality Act affords several protections and work place rights, protecting individuals from work place discrimination, more of which can be read about here.

The afforded protections and rights usually will take the form of reasonable adjustments and considerations made for someone living with the condition.

For example, if someone experiences tonic-clonic seizures occasionally even after receiving medication and treatment, a request to work in an section of the work place that is carpeted to protect against injuries sustained during falls is considered a reasonable accommodation and thus protected under the Equality Act of 2010.

If a person is living with epilepsy, do they have to disclose this to their employer?

No, not at all. A person does not need to disclose any information about the condition to employers. That being said though, unless the condition is being well regulated with treatment medication or the probability of it affecting their work life is minimal, a person should inform their employer.

While there is unfortunately still some stigma attached to the condition, as many people are simply not informed enough to fully understand the lives of those living with epilepsy, it still is in the best interest of the person living with epilepsy to inform their employer as once the dialogue is opened, reasonable accommodations and adjustments can be made to limit any chance of something unfortunate taking place.

Should colleagues and co-workers avoid meetings that involve slideshows or presentations due to changes in lighting and possible blinking screens?

This concerns one of the more widely held misconceptions that unfortunately has become quite pervasive within modern society, this idea that blinking lights or animated screens will immediately cause a person living with epilepsy to experience an epilepsy induced seizure.

While this is a very real possibility for some, an estimated 3% of all people in the UK living with epilepsy suffer from photosensitivity induced seizures, the larger majority of people living with epilepsy are not affected by photosensitivity. Even more, of the entire population of people living with epilepsy, only 48% are at risk from experiencing an epilepsy induced seizure.

Though a significant portion of the population lives with epilepsy and even more will experience a seizure at some point in their lifetime, sadly quite a few misconceptions still exist surrounding the condition, though by challenging ourselves to learn more and lessen the stigma associated with living any type of neurological condition, we can move forward together towards a better tomorrow for all.