One third say that the condition causes them difficulty on the job Research from Diabetes UK has found that one in six (16 per cent) people with diabetes currently in work in the South East feel that they’ve been discriminated against by their employer because of their condition.
The survey also found that more than one third (33 per cent) of respondents said that living with diabetes had caused them difficulty at work, while 7 per cent had not told their employer that they have the condition. 24 per cent of people in the South East said that they would like time off work for diabetes-related appointments and flexibility to take regular breaks for testing their blood sugar or to take medication.
Diabetes UK hopes that the survey will start a conversation about long-term health conditions in the workplace. Managing diabetes can involve taking medication – including injecting insulin at the right time – and for some people testing blood glucose levels multiple times a day. To prevent the onset of serious complications there are vital checks that everyone with diabetes should be getting which can require time off work. Employers can only help if they are aware that someone has diabetes and what it means both day-to-day and in the long run.
Jill Steaton, Regional Manager in the South East at Diabetes UK, said: “Thousands of people across the UK have spoken out about how a lack of understanding from their employers can make working with diabetes not just exhausting and stressful, but also potentially life-threatening. We heard from people who had to give up their jobs in order to manage their condition safely.
“Diabetes is one of the largest health crises of our time affecting more than 2.2 million people of working age in the UK. Missing essential health checks or not taking medication on time can lead to devastating complications, such as amputations, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and even early death.
“Discrimination and difficulties come about because employers lack knowledge about diabetes and do not understand its impact. We need to talk more about the condition and the many ways it affects people’s lives in order to persuade workplaces to offer greater understanding and flexibility. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they can ask for the support they need.”
Often people with diabetes do not think of themselves as having a disability, but in many cases they will be covered by the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act defines a disability as a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ When asking whether the condition fits the definition it is the effect of untreated diabetes and the impact on each individual that should be considered, particularly if they have developed complications.