In the UK approximately 1 in 100 people (600,000) have a diagnosis of epilepsy, yet despite anti-discrimination legislation, people with epilepsy in the UK are more than twice as likely as those without the condition to be unemployed. That is the main conclusion of a report from IES which included a literature review, interviews with for experts in employment support, clinical practice and applied research, interviews with six employers of different sizes across a range of industries and two focus groups of individuals with varied symptoms and employment histories.
The report explores factors that contribute to people with epilepsy being disadvantaged at work and to identify what good employment support should look like. The research uncovered clear employer knowledge gaps, underpinned by a lack of awareness surrounding the fluctuating condition. Equally, employees were often very reluctant to discuss their health with employers until firmly established in the workplace – for fear of discrimination.
The employers interviewed were often unfamiliar with the range of symptoms that exist, sometimes unaware that medication can often prevent seizures – the chief health and safety concern cited when considering employing somebody with epilepsy. Employers frequently doubted that they could make adjustments to enable someone with epilepsy to work safely. Job roles involving machinery, vehicles, working remotely or alone, or caring for others were felt to be particularly difficult.