Employing people with epilepsy
Challenging the myths
Is this what you think when the best person for the job tells you they also have epilepsy?
- Higher WorkCover premiums
- More sick leave
- More accidents
- Lower productivity
Think again. Please read on.
It is natural to be concerned about the issues of safety and reliability if a job applicant or employee tells you they have epilepsy. However, if the best person for the job also has epilepsy, they are still the best person for the job.
Many employers mistakenly think that their WorkCover premiums will increase if they employ someone with epilepsy. Premiums are only affected by claims.
- Sick leave
Having epilepsy does not automatically mean more time off work, nor does it make people less reliable. A common cold or the flu is likely to account for more sick leave than any time taken off due to seizures.
People with epilepsy are generally very careful about their own well-being and are no more prone to accidents than anyone else. Research indicates that workers who have epilepsy are, in fact, more aware of potential hazards and so they are less likely to have an accident at work.
Being aware of employers' concerns often means people with epilepsy are keen to prove themselves to be productive, reliable and valuable employees. The difficult part is securing the job in the first place.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures. Brain cells normally communicate with each other in a coordinated way to control our conscious state and body movements. During a seizure this communication is temporarily disturbed and becomes uncoordinated.
There are many different types of seizures and, although they can sometimes look frightening, they rarely cause any damage to the brain.
Although you cannot stop a seizure, you can assist the person to make a quick and safe recovery by staying with them and reassuring them when the seizure has finished.
Epilepsy is not a condition requiring others to be over-protective. Nor is it necessary to restrict the activities or job opportunities of the person with epilepsy.
Why is epilepsy still hidden?
Epilepsy is not an uncommon disorder, but it is often a well-hidden one. 80,000 Victorians, 350,000 Australians.
You might not know a person has epilepsy unless you see them having a seizure, and with good epilepsy management that may never occur.
People with epilepsy, particularly job seekers and employees, often hide the fact that they have epilepsy because they fear the stigma and discrimination which can follow.
A jobseeker who discloses their epilepsy is often by passed.
Helpful questions employers can ask
If a job applicant tells you they have epilepsy, this disclosure gives you the opportunity to find out about their condition and if it will affect their work.
Some helpful questions to ask are:-
- What kind of seizures do you have and how often do these occur?
- Can you describe what happens when you are having a seizure?
- Do your seizures occur randomly or is there a pattern?
- Is there anything in particular which triggers a seizure?
- If you have a seizure, how long does it take before you can carry on with your work?
- What should we do if you have a seizure at work?
To assume that a person's epilepsy will prevent them from doing the job is often a mistake and can lead to discrimination.