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How to handle diabetes in the workplace (after security guard wins tribunal)

With 3.8 million people now diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, businesses are increasingly likely to have to face the challenge of managing employees with the condition.

As well as wanting to help and support all employees it is wise to be aware that, in most instances, diabetes will be considered a disability under the Equality Act. And so this recent case will serve as a warning.

A security guard who worked on his own has won his employment tribunal case after quitting his job following a hypoglycaemic (hypo) attack. The company did not know he had diabetes at the time of the attack. However they did carry out a review afterwards and felt that they could not make any changes to his role.

The judge found that the company failed to make reasonable adjustments for his disability. But what should a company do to help diabetics at work?

Tips for managing diabetes in your workforce

No two people will have the same coping or avoidance strategies or treatment regime. So an individual plan and risk assessment needs to be undertaken. This is particularly important with a lone worker, where looking for an alternative role within the company should be considered.

Encouraging the employee to inform colleagues should help. Understanding and making sure others know what diabetes is, can often reassure employees with diabetes and their colleagues. And getting their permission for you to notify first aiders or appointed persons will allow them to react quickly should an attack happen.

Making adjustments to any sickness monitoring scheme such as the Bradford factor is important so that diabetics are not discriminated against. Another action to consider where possible is to provide a private room for injecting or glucose intake. Relaxing rules about eating at the workstation or ensuring that regular breaks are taken are simple steps that you can take.

If you want to know how you can avoid an employment tribunal for not making reasonable adjustments for employees with medical conditions, get in touch with your local HR Dept.