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Is Diabetes a Disability at Work? Your Rights as an Employee.

Details: Written by Kate Hutchinson |

Diabetes affects over 415 million people globally, making it one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide. Despite its widespread impact, it is still widely misunderstood, and individuals living with Diabetes are often considered to have an invisible disability. A lack of understanding of Diabetes, disability laws, and diabetic employee rights can in some cases, lead to discrimination at work.

This blog aims to raise awareness about Diabetes and provide insights into the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees when considering the needs of Diabetic individuals at work.

Discover some of the incredible free online courses The Skills Network can offer to help educate individuals and organisations about Diabetes and promote a more inclusive work environment for everyone.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, understanding Diabetes and the legal protections available is crucial for promoting a healthy and fair work environment.

What is Diabetes and How does it Affect Employees at Work?

NHS definition of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes People living with Type 1 Diabetes reported a 23% loss in work productivity due to the demands of diabetes (including work time missed).

Common Symptoms of Diabetes

The most common symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination, particularly at night
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk- although this is more common among Type 1
  • Itching in the genital area or frequent episodes of thrush
  • Blurred vision
  • Breath that smells fruity
  • Having cuts and grazes that take a long time to heal

The Causes of Diabetes

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) the cause of Type 1 Diabetes is unknown.

What we do know for certain, is that Type 1 Diabetes causes the body to attack the cells that make insulin. Type 1 Diabetes is not a hereditary disease and can occur in anyone at any time regardless of genetics.

Type 2 Diabetes is caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It's often linked to being overweight or inactive or having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes.

How to Manage Diabetes at Work

Managing Diabetes at work requires careful planning and often thinking ahead.

Employees may have to consider or account for:

  • Injecting insulin
  • Taking other medication at set times
  • Checking blood glucose levels (sugars) with finger pricking
  • Attending regular healthcare appointments

Due to a weakened immune system, many Diabetic employees are more susceptible to stomach bugs, the common cold and the flu which can often spread quickly in a traditional office environment.

Most people can manage their Diabetes so that it doesn't affect their work and productivity however, in some cases, this isn't always possible.

In a recent survey by dQ&A, community members were asked ‘Does Diabetes affect your ability to work?’. More specifically, the survey asked respondents to share how many hours of productive work had been lost because of their Diabetes.

Is Diabetes considered a Disability under UK law?

Type 1, 2 and all other variants of Diabetes are generally recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or if you live in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 .

This law protects an individual from disability discrimination at work and in the wider society. It also grants the individual certain rights and extra support when needed.

However, it isn't that clean-cut.

The 2010 Equality Act also outlines that every person must be treated as an individual, therefore a person with Diabetes may not always be classed as disabled- with only a court or tribunal being capable of deciding.

It is for this reason that Diabetes is also commonly regarded and classed as an unseen or invisible disability because of the emphasis on individual experience. Some may choose to wear a verified hidden or unseen disability lanyard, which is widely recognised by its discreet sunflower icon.

Disability lanyard

Should you tell your employer that you have Diabetes?

According to, you're not obligated to inform your employer about having Diabetes by law. The Equality Act actually makes it illegal for them to ask about your health before offering you a job.

If you’re already in employment, sharing about your Diabetes will help your employer make reasonable accommodations for you.

Let's say, for instance, you require some time off or need a moment to inject insulin and this occasionally causes you to be a tad late. If you've already disclosed your Diabetes beforehand, you'll find yourself in a far better position to explain the situation.

What do you mean by ‘reasonable accommodations’ for Diabetes?

People who suffer from Diabetes are protected under disabled workers' rights to expect their employer to support their work routine with reasonable adjustments within the workplace.

Employers are legally obligated to ensure that their employees can safely manage their Diabetes and do their job.

Reasonable accommodations in the workplace for Diabetic employees could be:

  • Making sure employees can have a break at a set time to allow for insulin injections and other medication or blood tests
  • Providing a private space to allow employees to inject insulin or blood tests
  • Modified equipment for visually impaired employees
  • Flexibility in working hours to accommodate regular health checks

What is important to remember as an employer or manager, is that these reasonable adjustments do not cost you any money.

It is all about being flexible!

Sandwich, insulin bottle, needle and clock

In order to better recognise invisible disabilities at work such as Diabetes, Autism, Chronic Fatigue, Dyslexia, ADHD and many more, The Skills Network can provide you or your business with FREE online training.

Our free Level 2 Certificate in Understanding the Care and Management of Diabetes online course is great for both individuals interested in developing their understanding of Diabetes, as well as employers looking for training to upskill their staff.

The course is fully online via our award-winning e-learning platform called EQUAL, meaning you can study at a time and place that fits your busy schedule.

Here is a short summary of what the course will explore:

Unit 1: Understand Diabetes

Explore the varying functions of glucose and insulin in the blood, the different forms and causes of diabetes, as well as the risk factors associated with each type.

Unit 2: Prevention and early intervention of Type 2 Diabetes

Examine the prevention and early intervention of Type 2 diabetes, paying attention to how the condition can be delayed, or even prevented, through healthy lifestyle changes.

Unit 3: Understand the initial care of Diabetes

Investigate how Diabetes can be managed and monitored. As well as considering the mental and physical impact that diabetes diagnosis can have on an individual.

Unit 4: Understand treatment and management of Diabetes

Develop an understanding of the ongoing care and treatment recommended to control blood glucose levels and identify how best to prevent and detect complications in people with diabetes.

To find out more about how the FREE course can benefit your business why not fill out an enquiry form today?

Our Level 2 course is fully funded by funding authorities in both England and Scotland, meaning you can access the free online training at no cost.

To learn more about our funding streams in England and Scotland why not check out our FAQs……

Not a business but want to enrol on the course?

Don’t worry, you can also apply for funding for this course provided you meet the eligibility criteria. Complete the application form and enrol today.

Protecting your Rights as an Employee with Diabetes

Wheelchair employee and manager having a conversation

Living with Diabetes can present unique challenges in the workplace.

However, it's important to remember that as an employee, you have rights and protections to ensure a fair and inclusive work environment.

Here you learn steps you can take if you believe you are being discriminated against due to your Diabetes, how to request reasonable accommodations from your employer and the importance of understanding your rights and advocating for yourself.

  1. Recognising discrimination and taking action
  2. Discrimination can manifest in various ways, such as unfair treatment, harassment, or denial of opportunities.

    Begin by documenting any incidents or behaviours that you believe are discriminatory, including dates, times, and individuals involved. This will serve as evidence if you decide to take further action.

  1. Requesting reasonable accommodations
  2. Remember, this is a legal obligation for your employer, so make sure you communicate your needs to your employer so that you can do your job effectively.

    Start by researching and compiling a list of potential accommodations that would enable you to perform your job without compromising your health or well-being. This may include set lunch break hours, access to a private area for blood sugar testing or breaks for insulin administration.

  1. Be a positive advocate for Diabetes and help aid understanding
  2. Nobody is better qualified to educate your peers about Diabetes than you. A lack of understanding of your unique needs can cause avoidable conflict within the workplace.

    Engage in open and constructive communication with your employer and colleagues, emphasising your capabilities and the value you bring to the workplace.

    By advocating for yourself, you contribute to creating a more inclusive environment not only for yourself but also for future employees.

    And if you feel like you or your colleagues might benefit from some free, flexible online training on the topic of Diabetes, look no further than The Skills Network.

Why not check out our website to see how we can help support you and your business needs?

Understanding the rights and protections of employees with Diabetes is vital for a fair and inclusive work environment. Throughout this blog, we discussed how Diabetes affects employees, the legal aspects of Diabetes as a disability, and steps to protect your rights at work.

It is essential for employers and employees to collaborate in creating a workplace that embraces diversity and supports individual well-being. By focusing on education, raising awareness, and implementing inclusive practices, such as reasonable accommodations, we can foster an environment where all employees can thrive.

Together, let's prioritise understanding, awareness, and inclusivity to create a supportive and successful work environment.