One person in the UK is diagnosed with diabetes every two minutes, with Diabetes’s UK estimating that around 3.5 million adults have been diagnosed with the condition. With the number of people being diagnosed rising, it is important that employers understand the condition and can make the necessary adjustments where needed.

Around 1 in 10 people have type 1 diabetes which is treated by daily

insulin doses, either by injections or through an insulin pump. The remainder of those diagnosed can be managed with a healthy diet and increased physical activity in most cases, but more serious cases may require medication or/and insulin.

Diabetes is generally classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 as it is a long-term condition that affects a person’s ability to do normal day to day activities. This means that employees can seek compensation from employers if they fail to make reasonable adjustments to assist them in completing their job.

It is vital that all first aiders within an organisation know what to do in an emergency for someone with diabetes. This shows the importance of employees feeling they can share their health conditions with their employer and colleagues to improve their safety at work. For example, people with diabetes can suffer a hypo which can be caused by stress or manual work, but varies for different people. People are usually warned before they have a hypo by signs such as feeling shaky, sweating, hunger, tiredness, blurred vision, feeling light headed and losing co-ordination. Therefore, if colleagues are aware what type of diabetes a person has and what usually causes them to have a hypo, they can look for the signs and treat them appropriately when needed.

For people with insulin dependent diabetes it is important that they have space in a fridge to store their insulin, as it needs to be kept cool, in addition to somewhere they can store their hypo remedy, such as sugary drinks, Mars bars or glucose tablets to restore sugar levels.

Other adjustments may need to be made for employees with diabetes depending on the type and severity of their condition. These can include:

  • Allowing them to take regular, short breaks to eat to help them control their blood sugar levels.
  • Letting them have time out to test their blood glucose levels and treat themselves with insulin or food if required.
  • Provide a clean, private place for them to inject insulin and complete blood tests.
  • Allow time off work for medical checks or to attend training on managing their diabetes.
  • Transferring them to a low risk work activity if necessary.
  • Provide modified equipment for them if they develop complications as a result of their condition, such as visual impairments.

Employers especially need to be aware of people with diabetes who drive for work as people treated with insulin are only able to hold a group 2 diving licence (for heavy goods or passenger vehicles) on a one-year renewable basis and a standard licence on a three-year renewable basis. They then have to be reassessed before the licence is renewed.

The key message is that employers need to talk to their employees about their particular needs whenever they are made aware of a health condition that may affect their ability to complete day to day tasks.

If you have any questions on making reasonable adjustments for employees with a long-term health condition, please contact the Amarisk team by emailing enquiries@amarisk.co.uk or phoning 01392 247436.

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