Jennifer Maxwell: Employers are legally bound to support staff with diabetes


The Equality Act 2010 offers protection to anyone with a disability as defined under the act. People with diabetes can be covered by this definition of disability.

The Act places an obligation on employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to enable staff with disabilities to continue in work and to prevent them from being placed at a substantial disadvantage.

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable, an employer should consider: the effectiveness of the adjustment; the practicality of making the adjustment; the costs involved; the extent of any disruption; and the extent of the employer’s financial or other resources.

Many adjustments are simple to make and cost little or nothing, and many are simply good management practice.

Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments may include: allowing an affected employee time off to attend diabetes-related medical appointments or diabetes education courses, which can help them manage their condition better; altering working hours so that, for example, an employee who experiences difficulties managing their condition in the morning can start later in the day; or modifying sickness absence procedures for diabetes-related absence.

It is helpful for employers to develop a good understanding of the needs of affected staff. They can do this by talking to them to make sure the correct adjustments are in place to enable them to be fully effective at work.

It is important to bear in mind that each employee will experience diabetes differently, depending on the type of diabetes they have, the medication they take and any complications they experience.

Assumptions should not be made about how an employee may be affected by their condition because this can lead to the wrong adjustments being made, or the right ones not being made at all.

Jennifer Maxwell is advocacy manager at Diabetes UK