Employing someone with Epilepsy

This information aims to reassure employers that they need not have apprehensions about employing people with epilepsy.

 

Epilepsy And The Work Environment

 

It would be unrealistic to give the impression that epilepsy poses no problems in employment although there are many people with epilepsy who hold responsible jobs in a wide variety of occupations. In fact the vast majority never experience any ill effects at all because their epilepsy is well controlled.

 

In general, some types of work have been found to be less suitable for people with epilepsy, although exceptions can always be found. The golden rule is that jobs should be carefully selected and guided by expert medical advice about the nature of seizures, their frequency, duration, after effects, etc. The safety of the individual and of other employees is paramount.

 

The vast majority of jobs are suitable for people with epilepsy and discrimination needs to be avoided. (Unlawful under the FW Act) Most work practices that have a high risk factor need to be evaluated with a view to reducing these risks. This slight restructuring may improve efficiency and make the work environment safe for everyone. Suitability for a particular job needs to be decided before any implications arising from the applicant’s epilepsy are considered.

 

 

A Well Informed Approach For Both Employer And Applicant

 

A well informed approach to the selection of employees with epilepsy is in everyone’s best interest. If an applicant satisfies the requirements for the job, the epilepsy should be carefully evaluated to see if it is likely to be a problem. This allows you to make a reasoned judgement, and at the same time, helps ensure equal access to employment for people with epilepsy.

 

 

Interviewing A Person With Epilepsy

 

In addition to routine interview questions about previous experience, training and skills, the following questions are useful in screening job applicants with epilepsy.

1,When did your epilepsy begin?
2. How often do you have seizures?
3. When was your last one? Did anything special bring it on?
4. What actually happens when you have a seizure? (A description of the events is useful than a ‘label’ in evaluating an applicant’s job suitability.)
5. How long does it take you to recover?
6. Do your seizures happen at any particular time of day or night?
7. Do you have any warning before the onset of a seizure?
8. Do you have a Epilepsy Management Plan (EMP)?

 

People can be fearful and disconcerted of epilepsy, however this due to misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. Most people are usually very willing to help and make allowances if they understand something about epilepsy and know how to react. A good way of creating sympathetic conditions is for co-workers to be aware of what happens when a seizure takes place and knowing what to do and what not to do.. It is also a good idea for someone with first aid experience to be available so that skilled assistance can be given if it’s needed. No great fuss should be made over an employee who is subject to epilepsy. This, and the anxiety involved in taking up a new job, may produce precisely the sort of stress to avoided.

 

 

Accident Liability

 

Insurance companies (in general) include all disabled people in employers’ liability insurance policies on the understanding that the employer, in allocating work, takes account of the nature of the disability. When care is taken in selecting suitable employment for disabled people, there is no evidence that the risk of injury to disabled people is greater than that which occurs among the working population generally.

While  not all people  living with epilepsy identify as having a disability, it is notable that people with disabilities actually have a lower number of workplace health and safety incidents, as well as much lower worker’s compensation and costs, compared to the average employee.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The medical aspects of epilepsy usually create fewer problems than people’s attitudes and practical restrictions. Research has shown that, on average, people with epilepsy have fewer accidents than other employees, take less time off work and have good job loyalty records.

 

It is important to consider that a fair and non-judgemental assessment of the individual and their situation / employment is fundamental for an inclusive workplace .

 

For information about epilepsy or the support services, please contact The Epilepsy Centre of SA & NT on 1300 850 081 or contact us at enquiries@epilepsycentre.org.au

 

 

References:

 

epilepsy@epilepsyfoundation.org.au 2019

Work Health and Safety Act  2011.

Using or disclosing health information https://www.oaic.gov.au