- People with epilepsy can do most jobs with the right support and adjustments
- The type of work you can do may depend on how your epilepsy affects you, as well as your skills and experience
- If you don’t think it will affect your safety or ability to do your job, you don’t have to tell your employer about your epilepsy
- If you tell your employer about your epilepsy, the equality laws protect you from unfair treatment at work
- An employer should do a risk assessment if they know you have epilepsy
- An employer can legally refuse you a job if your epilepsy may be a risk for you or other people. This is only if they can’t make changes to make it safe
- If you don’t have a driving licence and can’t reach work by public transport, you might be able to get some help from Access to Work
- The Armed Forces are legally allowed to refuse to employ people with epilepsy. They will only accept people with epilepsy in extremely limited circumstances
1Think about what you want to tell employers about your epilepsy and how you will explain it during a job interview
2When applying for work, look for employers that say they are Disability Confident. This gives you a guaranteed interview if you meet the essential job requirements and are happy to declare that you have a disability
3If you’re signing on at a jobcentre, you’ll have a work coach. It may help to assume your work coach knows nothing about epilepsy. You will need to explain exactly how it affects you and your ability to work
4Give your work coach a copy of the Epilepsy Action booklet ‘Work and epilepsy’. It will help them to understand about epilepsy. Link in More info below
Sadly some people have bad experiences with employers.
I’m 17 and haven’t had much success finding part time work. I’ve had feedback from interviews that I don’t have enough experience, but I think they don’t want me because of my epilepsy.”
I work in a kitchen. I had a focal seizure whilst carrying a knife and gave everyone a scare. Then they reduced my hours saying it would be better for me. I couldn’t afford my bills so I had to move back in with my mum.”
Do I have to tell my employer I have epilepsy?
Employers aren’t generally allowed to ask you questions about your health before they offer you the job
There are some circumstances in which they can ask these questions. An example is if they need to make reasonable adjustments for your interview
Once you have been offered a job, you don’t automatically have to tell your employer about your epilepsy
If your seizures are well controlled or you only have sleep seizures your epilepsy may not affect your ability to do your job safely
If you don’t tell your employer and epilepsy affects your ability to do your job safely, they may be able to dismiss you
Support at work
- Once your employer knows you have epilepsy they should complete a risk assessment and involve you. If they identify any risks they need to think about possible reasonable adjustments
- Your employer should draw up a care plan with you. This should include what support they should offer if you have a seizure
- Keep your employer informed about what’s happening with your epilepsy. There is a much better chance they will support you well if they are ‘on board’
- If your employer wants to look at your health record, they need your permission. You can make it clear which bits you are willing for them to see, for example, just the bits about your epilepsy
- Your employer can only tell your colleagues you have epilepsy with your permission
- If you tell your colleagues about your epilepsy, you might find they’re less frightened about it and more supportive. Keeping something secret takes a lot of energy
- If you have a union rep, they may find the Trade Union Congress (TUC) guide written by Epilepsy Action useful
- Best practice says an employer should record any sick days separately from other sickness. You could ask for this to be done as a reasonable adjustment
Reasonable adjustments are things your employer could do to help you at work.
Here are some young people’s experiences of reasonable adjustments:
My seizures are usually early in the morning. I agreed with my manager that I could start a bit later and have a shorter lunch break.”
I work alone a lot, at different sites. My employer provided me with a fall alarm and a security company responds if it goes off, or they call an ambulance.”
I work in retail. My employer changed some of my duties so I don’t do things that they think are too risky. For example, I don’t lock up by myself at the end of the day, I always lock up with someone else.”
I used to work night shifts, but I realised my seizures were triggered by tiredness. My boss helped me to change onto day shifts.”
There’s lots of other things your employer could do, such as alterations to the building, changing your workspace or giving you more time to do tasks. Many reasonable adjustments don’t cost anything. If there is a cost, your employer might be able to get funding from Access to Work to help pay for it. They should never ask you to pay.
Access to Work
Access to Work is a government scheme to help people with the costs of the support they need to help them work.
Epilepsy awareness training
If your colleagues would benefit from epilepsy awareness training, here’s some things that can help:
What to do when someone has a seizure – A free online course that shows different seizure types and first aid
In-person training – Epilepsy Action can provide tailored training for employers and colleagues
Stories by you
Read Paige’s experience of telling an employer she had epilepsy during a job interview.
Read how Michelle got the job she wanted as a Police officer.
Work and epilepsy - Expectation Vs Reality by Derrick Kay
Volunteering is a great way to get some work experience, develop your skills and help others at the same time. There are loads of different things you could do, depending on your interests.
Many universities and colleges have student volunteering opportunities. Contact your student support services to find out how it’s organised where you study.
Do-it UK lets you search for opportunities online. It will also help you find your nearest volunteer centre.
If you’re not working
How does your epilepsy affect the jobs you might do? Have there been any ideas on this page about support that employers might be able to offer, to help you find a job?
If you are working
Have you got the support you need at work to manage your epilepsy and do your job safely and effectively? If not, what else could you talk to your manager about?