Working with Epilepsy
Jun 16, 2017
There are more than 40 types of epileptic seizure and one in every 100 people are affected with this long-term health condition.
The number of employees with the condition is expected to increase as people work for longer, due to one in four people over the age of 65 being diagnosed with some form of epilepsy.
The different types of epilepsy can result in a variety of symptoms; some seizures pass in seconds compared to others lasting for minutes each time. Others only have seizures during their sleep or become vacant, whereas some people fall down or lose consciousness. In addition to this, some people diagnosed with the condition receive a warning before a seizure such as an ‘aura’, the perception of a strange light or confusing thoughts, whereas others do not have any warning at all.
Approximately 70% of people diagnosed with epilepsy do not have seizures when they are on medication, whereas others only have seizures during specific conditions, such as flashing or flickering lights, tiredness or stress.
As all types of the condition are different, there are no set solutions to making reasonable adjustments within the workplace for employees diagnosed with epilepsy. Therefore, risk assessments should be carried out for each employee to ensure they can work without harming themselves or others. It is important for the assessment to be adapted to the nature of the individual’s epilepsy as well as what the job involves and the working environment. Once this has been completed and the necessary reasonable adjustments have been implemented, it is important that the assessment is reviewed regularly in case the condition changes over time.
During the assessment, there are certain aspects to consider, such as whether the employee has had to surrender their driving licence, as this would suggest that they should not be doing any high-risk work such as operating machinery. If they are able to drive a car there won’t be many tasks they are unable to complete. Additionally, it is important to find out as much detail as possible about their condition, including what happens when they have a seizure, are they on any medication, do the seizures happen at a particular time and how long does it take for them to recover? All these details will assist in knowing what reasonable adjustments within the workplace need to be made.
It may be apparent that no adjustments need to be made for a certain individual if the seizures are controlled and no triggers are present in the workplace. However, some of the common adjustments that are considered for employees with epilepsy include:
- Extra breaks to prevent them from getting overtired;
- Allocated time during work hours for them to take their medication;
- No lone working or ensuring they check in more regularly than other employees;
- First aid staff to be made aware of the condition so they can provide assistance when an employee is having a seizure;
- A clear work schedule, written instructions and tools, if the individual has memory or concentration problems;
- Adjusting light and heating for people with convulsive seizures;
- Providing a LED screen with the screen brightness lowered for people with photo sensitive seizures.
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees in the UK with epilepsy if it has a substantial effect on their day to day activities or would have a substantial effect if they were not on medication. These employees would be classed as disabled under the act and consequently HR needs to be made aware of the condition. This is an example of where Health & Safety and Human Resources overlap.
If you have any questions on making reasonable adjustments for employees with a long-term health condition, please contact Richard by emailing email@example.com or phoning 01392 247436.
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