How to help someone with diabetes at work

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Health Assured team

07 October 2019

Within any workplace, you’ll have employees dealing with various health conditions.

While some of these may be short-term and not require time away from work, others may be long-term and may require regular absences from work.

One such health condition is diabetes. According to an NHS study, there’re around 1.8 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes each year. This figure doesn’t include the further one million people thought to be living with undiagnosed diabetes.

So it’s not uncommon for some employees to be dealing with diabetes in the workplace.

While your employees aren’t required to inform you of their diagnosis, doing so allows you to make reasonable adjustments and take it into account when needed.

For example, if they need time off work to attend a hospital appointment or if they require a private room to take their insulin shot you’ll understand why.

In this piece, we’ll highlight how you can support your employees with diabetes at work.


Is diabetes a disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a long-term or substantial effect on the sufferer’s ability to do normal daily activities.

You can read our previous piece for more information on what classes as a disability.

In the case of diabetes, while sufferers may not feel disabled it’s classed as a ‘hidden disability’, which falls under a protected characteristic.

Although there’s no definition of ‘reasonable’ under this act, it includes allowances for flexible working, specialised equipment, upgrading accessibility features, private room for insulin injections etc.

For example, if an employee requires adjustments to their breaks at work for diabetes treatments such as taking insulin shots and more.


Diabetes symptoms

By familiarising yourself with the symptoms, you’re able to educate your staff on how to help someone with diabetes.

While it may be difficult to identify some of these symptoms, you can acquaint yourself with common ones. These include:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Increased urination.
  • Slow-healing wounds.
  • Unexplained weight loss.


Stress and Diabetes

Stress is a common occurrence. However, your staff are bound to feel overwhelmed when you combine diabetes and stress at work.

On its own, stress can wear your staff down physically and mentally. However, for those diagnosed with diabetes, it can also instigate changes in blood sugar levels. Both of which can lead to depression and other underlying mental health issues if left unaddressed.


Managing diabetes at work

The first thing you’ll need to remember is to raise awareness for it in the workplace.

By understanding what it is and how it can affect individuals, other staff members can recognise the symptoms and identify what treatments are suitable and where they could be found.

You should also undertake diabetes at work risk assessment. It must look into the employee’s role and working environment. Other considerations include:

  • The stability of their condition and the treatment they’re taking for it.
  • The employee’s access to regular breaks and meals.
  • Their level of exposure to hazardous substances and more.


Final note

Remember, because an employee or a potential recruit has diabetes doesn’t mean you can exclude them from potential opportunities.

Individuals must be assessed on their own merits and shouldn’t be cast aside solely because of their disability.


Expert advice

Contact Health Assured today for guidance and support on managing employees with various health conditions. Call us on 0844 892 2493.

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