This article has been prepared with the publication of Epilepsy Action as a referent. The data is from the United Kingdom. We can assume that at a European and Spanish level, the relationship between epilepsy and employment could be similar. In no case, it is intended to be thought of as an original article and it only intends to spread the stigma that epilepsy still suffers in different social fields.

The difference between the employment rates of people with disabilities and those that don’t have one remained constant around 30% since 2010. This means that people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people.

However, people with epilepsy may still have more difficulty finding employment.

People with epilepsy have one of the lowest employment rates among people with disabilities. Just over a third (34%) of people who identified epilepsy as their “main” health condition are employed, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (United Kingdom).

These figures show that the only people who have a lower employment rate are those who suffer from “mental illness or other nervous disorders” (29%) and “serious or specific learning difficulties” (18%).

In comparison, the overall employment rate in the United Kingdom is around 76%. This means that a little more than three-quarters of people of working age have a job. This situation is unacceptable.

Epilepsy Action is doing a campaign for achieving more support to help people with epilepsy find work. The government and employers are called upon to take positive and immediate measures to ensure that people with epilepsy are not unfairly disadvantaged in the labor market. It is also intended that employers consider attitudes towards epilepsy and do not see it as an immediate barrier to employment. By taking the time to learn more about epilepsy, employers can provide greater equality of conditions when applying for a job and work. This will mean a significant improvement in current statistics.

Research by the Congress of Trade Unions (TUC) has also highlighted that people with epilepsy at work have an average salary of 11.8% less than non-disabled workers. This means that not only people with epilepsy are less likely to have a paid job, but when they do, they earn less than their non-disabled peers.

The graph illustrates that people with epilepsy earn 11.8% less than non-disabled workers.

The low employment rate of people with epilepsy is very worrying since there are very few jobs that someone with epilepsy cannot do. Depending on how the disease affects your daily life, many people with epilepsy can carry out work with minimal adjustments. Despite this, there are many who cannot find a professional career.

One of the biggest barriers to employment was the lack of understanding of epilepsy. Many employers were not aware of the different ways in which epilepsy can affect different people. They assumed that everyone who has epilepsy has tonic-clonic seizures, and they were not aware that many people’s seizures can be controlled with medication. They also thought that most people with epilepsy would be “photosensitive.” despite the fact that only about 3 in 100 people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy.

This lack of understanding includes how colleagues would react to seeing an attack and the disorders that could arise when hiring someone with epilepsy, for example. There is also a reluctance to make adjustments to allow a person with epilepsy to adapt to their workplace and activities.

As part of the IES investigation, many employers said that witnessing an attack would be distressing and that employees would not know what to do unless they had received prior training. This is consistent with the conclusions of a survey conducted in 2016, in which 63% of respondents stated that they would be concerned about working with someone with epilepsy. This was because they had no idea what to do to help a colleague who suffered a seizure.

Graph illustrating that 63% of people said they would be worried about working with someone with epilepsy.

Objectives to achieve:

-In order to get more people with epilepsy to enter the job market, Epilepsy Action is asking employers to implement changes to better recruit and retain people with epilepsy:

-To carry out a specific training on epilepsy to better understand the disease

-Offer better support for the employment of people with epilepsy, including a set of personalized tools for employees and employers to promote positive outreach and active self-management

-Government plans to create specific programs for labor inclusion in companies.

-More specific employment support for people with hidden and fluctuating conditions

-Reform the current Access to Work system to ensure that people with epilepsy get the support they need to find and keep a job

-Introduce the right to request modifications in the workplace for employees who are not covered by the duty to make reasonable adjustments established in the Equality Act of 2010

– Strengthen legal guidelines for employers to encourage early intervention to help a sick employee return to work

-Reform the regulatory sickness allowance to allow greater flexibility in returning to work after a sick leave

-Introduce a law that requires employers to publish their disability compensation difference

-Consider the employment practices of organizations with regard to equality of disability when making financing and acquisition decisions

-Expand the full range of statutory labor rights to all workers, regardless of employment status or type of contract

From MJN we want to thank Epilepsy Action for this great article that makes visible the real problems of people with epilepsy in the work environment.

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