Diabetes Discrimination in the Workplace

This is part 2 of my Diabetes Discrimination post. The first part focused on Diabetes Discrimination in your career choices. This piece was prompted by a presentation on “Diabetes Discrimination in the Workplace” at the Diabetes Hands Foundation MasterLab 2016 conference. Its really good and well worth watching.

I’ve never had a problem in any job that I’ve had but I also did not talk openly about my diabetes. I should probably add that I haven’t worked outside of the house in over 10 years (YIKES!!!) I felt that it was too difficult to communicate to people about an illness that I knew very little about and I got tired very quickly of the only response being “How awful, you can’t eat any sweets”. This was pre type 2 diabetes stigma. But I’ve also always had desk jobs where I could store my handbag and meter in my desk.

I do remember the one time that I disclosed my diabetes in a job interview and got the job. Soon after I started, my boss asked what should they do if I collapsed on the floor. This was in the days where I downplayed my diabetes becauses I didn’t want it to make me different. So I said, “Nobody panic! Call an ambulance, I wouldn’t be going anywhere”.

Other occasions, I didn’t disclose my diabetes until after I had received a job offer or started in my job. It still didn’t affect they way I was treated in the workplace. But I know that my experience isn’t everyone's.

I do find that these days, working/volunteering from home, that I tend to ignore things like pumps alarm reminders to check blood glucose levels because I just want to “finish this one thing”. I have to force myself to stop what I’m doing to do a check.

It’s up to you when to tell your employer that you have diabetes, or if you tell them at all. Unless you are asked (see below). But it is a good idea to tell them or your co-workers at some point, if only to know that someone has your back should the unlikely happen.

This information comes from Diabetes Ireland and I recommend that you keep a copy of it at your place of work to remind yourself that you do have rights.

Entitlements around Employment/ Education.

“You are legally required, if asked, to inform any potential employer of any long term condition during the recruitment process. Under the Employment Equality Act, the company cannot use your medical condition to discriminate against you in terms of successfully getting the job. Diabetes Ireland does not consider diabetes a disability nor do we consider it to have a substantial effect on any person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

As a person with diabetes, you have certain rights. They are;

  • - The right to eat food (either on the job, or to have a reasonable number of breaks to do so) is crucial for people with diabetes.
  • - People with diabetes also have the right to monitor their blood glucose, and administer insulin or medication accordingly. If you work in a public environment, you might ask to have a relatively private space in which to give yourself injections.
  • - People with diabetes also need freely available bathroom breaks.
  • - As a person with diabetes, you might also request to work regular hours, rather than shift work, if your doctor feels that your glucose control will be made more difficult with changing patterns. However, this is at the discretion of the employer.
  • - A person with diabetes is entitled to time off to attend hospital appointments. However, payment for this time is at the discretion of the employer. Medical information is confidential, and so you do not need to share your medical past with your employer. You can share what you want, but you should also share what will be needed.

The first step is to educate your employer. Explain what the effects of diabetes are and how diabetes can be managed. A person who manages their diabetes will not hold back any team. If anything, we suggest that a person with well-managed diabetes will be a benefit to their workplace, because they have learned organizational skills, self-discipline, and they lead a generally healthier lifestyle which results in fewer sick days.”

There is also more information on Diabetes UK’s website, as well as an Advocacy Pack on what you can do if you feel you are being discriminated at work because of your diabetes.