Employee Rights : The Basics

In General

Diabetics should be treated the same as all other employees in your setting.  A healthy diabetic will be as effective as a colleague with long-sight, or another colleague with back problems or another colleague recovering from injury.  The Equality at Work 2012 Act provides the legal framework for employers to provide workplace assessments for any employee who needs reasonable adjustments regardless of the reason.

Managing Risk

In workplace settings, there is always an element of risk to the safety or health of all employees.  In factories, technical environments or other areas where there is machinery, working at height, moving items (eg vehicles or lifting equipment) or other items that could cause injury it is normal to conduct risk assessments.  Additional questions you can ask to ensure you are taking into account diabetic employees include;

  • How stable the individual’s condition is and the type of treatment they are receiving? Bringing in an occupational health expert will ensure that employees’ privacy rights are maintained while ensuring the business takes the best decisions.
  • Whether the person will have access to regular meal breaks, and the opportunity to test their blood glucose level at work?
  • The level and regularity of activity undertaken in the course of the person’s duties as this may affect the level of glucose in the blood.  Is the employee able to regularly check their blood sugar levels, or perhaps they should be offered a device that continually measures their blood sugar and can alert them to problems in advance via their phone?
  • Whether or not, in light of the above, lone working, night working or other high-risk activities, such as driving can be safely undertaken.

Reasonable Adjustments

The law doesn’t stipulate what a reasonable adjustment should, you can see the definition here.  But for diabetics this might include;

  • Ensuring that diabetics can have short periods of time to test and inject without being concerned that managers or colleagues will see this as anything other than completely normal.  After all, we all need comfort breaks and many people take other breaks for refreshment, smoking, telephone calls etc.
  • Some flexibility of working patterns, though it is important to remember that your employer has the right to expect you to meet the terms of your contract in terms of total hours works and the outcomes you are expected to achieve.
  • Providing adjusted work tools, just as we do for DSE assessments more generally
  • A private place (not a loo!) to do blood sugar reading and injections if you want.
  • Making information available to all colleagues so they are aware of what you are doing when you test and inject without you having to explain it all the time.
  • Allowing you to take time off for medical appointments, though please note employers are not obliged to pay you for this time and/or may ask you to make up any time taken off.

Should I Disclose My Medical History?

You are not obliged to.  But, having an open relationship with your employer is generally the best course of action.  The Health and Safety at Work Act could mean that employers need to carry out individual risk assessments to assess whether a disability poses a risk to the health of either yourself or others.

If you have a positive or negative experience to share please comment here, or if you prefer to contact me in confidence.