Work – Epilepsy Action

The information in this section is about looking for and staying in work if you have epilepsy.
There is also information about your rights if things at work become difficult because of your epilepsy.
It depends on your skills, experience and how epilepsy affects your daily life. Most jobs should be open to you as employers can only refuse you a job if they have very good reason. For example, you could be refused a role because:
If you have epilepsy that has a substantial effect on your day-to-day activities or would have a substantial effect if you weren’t taking your epilepsy medicine, you are considered to be disabled under the equality laws.
You may also be protected by the equality laws if your epilepsy isn’t causing any problems and doesn’t need any treatment but could be triggered by specific things.
The equality laws are called the Equality Act in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland.
The equality laws cover:
Employers aren’t allowed to ask you questions about your health before they offer you the job, unless they have a good reason to. This includes questions about your previous sickness absence.
They also can’t refer you to an occupational health adviser or ask you to fill in a questionnaire provided by an occupational health adviser, at this stage of the recruitment process.
It would be classed as discrimination for an employer to ask you about your health before offering you a job, without a good reason.
An example of a good reason for asking questions before a job offer might be to make a reasonable adjustment for your job interview, such as giving you extra time to do a test.
Employers should only ask you questions about your health that are relevant to the essential duties of the job before making a job offer.
For example, they could ask if there is anything stopping you from lifting, if the job involves lifting. If health questions are asked before an offer is made, and you don’t feel this is relevant, you can choose to ignore them.
During an interview, an employer is only allowed to ask questions about your health if they are directly linked to an essential aspect of the job you are applying for. For example, they could ask how your epilepsy could affect your ability to do that job safely.
If your epilepsy would not affect your ability to do the job safely and effectively, you don’t need to mention it. This might be if you only have seizures when you are asleep, or your seizures are well controlled.
A work coach can help you in your search for work, or to gain new skills. They can also tell you about disability-friendly employers in your area.
To have an appointment with a work coach, you need to be already receiving certain benefits, or be disabled.
For more information contact your JobcentrePlus online. If you live in Scotland, you can also get help from Fair Start Scotland.
When you’re looking for work, look for the disability confident logo on adverts and application forms. The logo means the employer is committed to employing disabled people. If a job advert displays the logo, you’ll be guaranteed an interview if you meet the essential conditions for the job.
If you live in England or Wales, the Work and Health Programme can help you find and keep a job if you’re out of work. This is a general programme for people having difficulty finding or keeping work.
This is focussed one-to-one support and training to help you into work. If you live in England or Wales, have a disability or health condition, are unemployed and between school leaving age and State Pension age you may be able to get Intensive Personalised Employment Support.
To apply for the Work and Health Programme or Intensive Personalised Employment Support, ask your work coach. If you don’t have a work coach, ask to speak to one at your local Jobcentre Plus.
Anyone who’s unemployed can join a Work Club. They’re run by local organisations like employers and community groups, and give you the chance to share knowledge, experience and job hunting tips. Put work club and your location into a search engine for information about clubs near you.
You don’t automatically have to tell your employer about your epilepsy, after a job offer, if you don’t believe it will affect your ability to do your job safely and effectively.
An example could be that your epilepsy is well controlled, or you only ever have sleep seizures.
If you don’t tell your employer about your epilepsy and it does affect your ability to do your job safely, your employer may be able to dismiss you. To do this, they would have to prove that:
If you’re not sure whether to tell your employer about your epilepsy, here are some things to think about:
If your employer doesn’t know about your epilepsy, they can’t make any reasonable adjustments to help you.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is a law that says that all employers must provide a safe workplace. To do this, they must protect all their employees from any possible danger to their health while they are at work.
As an employee, you also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety at work. If your epilepsy could cause a health or safety risk to you or anybody else, you must tell your employer about it. This is the law.
Your employer’s insurance may pay you compensation if you are injured at work, or if you become ill because of your work. If you don’t tell them about your epilepsy, you won’t be fully covered by their insurance. So, you might not receive any compensation if you have an accident related to your epilepsy.
However, you are protected by the equality laws from the time you tell your employers you have a disability. So, if your seizures have previously been controlled, but start again, you can tell your employer then, and ask them to do a health and safety risk assessment.
More information about the Health and Safety at Work Act and employer’s insurance is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (for England, Scotland and Wales) or nidirect.gov.uk (for Northern Ireland)
If you decide to tell your employer about your epilepsy, it’s a good idea to do it before you start the job. This gives them time to make any reasonable adjustments you need.
If you don’t tell them about your epilepsy before you start a job, you can change your mind and tell them at any time. As soon as your employer knows about your epilepsy, they should look to put in place reasonable adjustments that would reduce or remove any disadvantage caused by your disability.
It’s your decision whether you tell the people you work with about your epilepsy. But if you do, they may feel more confident about helping you if you have a seizure.
Yes, if you give them permission, and sign a consent form. But they can’t tell other people about your epilepsy without your permission. This is to comply with the Data Protection Act.
A checklist can be a helpful tool for your employer when speaking to colleagues about your epilepsy. 
If there’s a chance you’ll have seizures at work, it’s a good idea to draw up a seizure action plan with your employer.
This can include what happens when you have a seizure and how people can help you during and afterwards. The information from your health and safety risk assessment can be used to do this.
Here are some more suggestions:
Epilepsy Action has a seizure action plan template your employer can use.
Before completing a seizure action plan, some people find it helpful to think about and plan what they want to tell their employer using the My epilepsy template.
It’s an assessment your employer must do to make sure you can carry out your work safely. Some questions that might come up during your health and safety risk assessment are:
Epilepsy Action have a risk assessment template your employer can use.
It’s something that your employer could do to help you at work, such as:
You could also ask for flexible working as a reasonable adjustment. This means making changes to your working patterns. An example might be working part-time or adjusting your start and finish times. Alternatively, it might mean working a particular shift pattern, or working longer hours on some days with time off on others.
Reasonable adjustments have to be reasonable to the employer and to you. Many reasonable adjustments involve little or no cost. If there are costs involved, funding might be available from Access to Work.
It may be that you won’t need any adjustments to be made in the workplace. This could be if you’re completely seizure free, or neither you, or other people would come to any harm if you had a seizure at work.
Supporting employees with epilepsy in the workplace
Talk to the people involved. They might be your colleagues, your line manager or your employer. You could tell them about the Employer toolkit which may help them to understand epilepsy and provides tools to support you.
If you’re a member of a union, you could ask them to be with you at any work meetings. If not, you could ask to bring a colleague or friend with you to meetings when you are discussing your work situation.
Keep notes of any actions or comments made that concern you. Also, keep a note of how you’ve tried to sort the situation out. This can be useful information if you decide later to take more formal action, such as raising a grievance or getting legal advice.
Check your contract, in particular the terms and conditions and the grievance procedure.
If your employer wants information from your doctor, they can only get this with your consent. They should only ask for information that is relevant to your epilepsy.
Seek advice as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits for bringing cases to Employment Tribunals and courts.
You can get advice from different organisations, including Citizen’s Advice, ACAS, or your trade union. If you are a member of a trade union, they may also support you at an Employment Tribunal.
You can also take legal advice from a solicitor, but this could be expensive. You might consider opting for legal expenses insurance cover, for example when taking out house contents insurance. This usually doesn’t cost a lot and can be valuable if you have problems at work.
If you decide to employ a solicitor, it’s important to check at the beginning how much it will cost.
If you are having problems at work because of your epilepsy, here are some things you could do that might help.
If your employer doesn’t make reasonable adjustments to help you, this could be illegal, unless they have significant justification. But sometimes it might not be possible to make a job safe, even with adjustments, if you have uncontrolled seizures. Not making reasonable adjustments in this instance may not be illegal.
If you have fewer, or more seizures than usual, you could ask your employer to do a new risk assessment for you. This could mean you can do a bigger range of work within your organisation. If you’re allowed to drive, a car there are few jobs you can’t do.
It depends on your terms and conditions. But you shouldn’t be treated less favourably than other people without epilepsy, as that would be discrimination.
This is particularly important if your work’s policies are flexible. An example would be when the company are making individual decisions about stopping sick pay or sickness reviews.
While some employers separate disability-related absence from other sickness absence, this is not an automatic requirement under the Equality Act.
Employers can decide how much sickness absence they will allow before your absence due to epilepsy is considered excessive. They might consider these changes to be a reasonable adjustment.
This is what Saleem says about his work:
“I need regular hospital appointments during my usual working hours. My work does their best to accommodate them. They also log my epilepsy sickness separately from sickness for other reasons. This means it doesn’t look too bad on my sickness record.”
If you are sick and unable to work, you may qualify for SSP, which is the government sick pay. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks and you are eligible if you have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row.
See gov.uk for more information about SSP.
Some employers also pay contractual sick pay (CSP). The length of sick pay varies but you should be able to see whether your employer pays CSP from your terms and conditions.
If you are eligible for CSP, your employer tops up your SSP so that it amounts to your normal pay.
You are allowed time off for medical appointments in the same way as other people you work with. But it depends on your terms and conditions whether you get paid for these absences.
If you also need to have limited time off work to go to medical appointments related to your epilepsy, it could be considered a reasonable adjustment to count these separately. You will have to agree with your employer how much time is acceptable before any sickness reviews are needed.
The Equality Advisory Support service gives free advice, information and guidance to individuals on equality, discrimination and human rights issues.
Tel. 0808 800 0082
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides advice and guidance on rights, responsibilities and good practice, based on equality law and human rights.
The Equality Commission provides advice and information about the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 90 500 600
Law Centres provide free legal advice and representation to disadvantaged people.
ACAS aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. They offer free advice about employment rights.
Tel: 0300 123 1100
Disability Law Services offer advice and information about employment law to disabled people.
Tel: 020 7791 9800
Fair Start Scotland is an employment support service which helps people living in Scotland to find work.
HSE can provide general information and guidance for employers about work-related health and safety issues.

If you would like to talk to someone about epilepsy, our trained advisers are here to help.
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