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Diabetes Awareness Week 10-16 June 2019

The numbers

The latest figures published by Diabetes UK in February 2019 estimate that a record £4.7 million people in the UK have now been diagnosed with diabetes. 1 in 10 over 40’s has type 2 diabetes, and by 2030 the numbers are expected to reach an eye watering £5.5 million.

Diabetes explained

There are two main types of diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 is when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. Type 2 is commonly an issue with the body metabolizing the sugar or developing a resistance to insulin, amongst other factors.
In simple terms, diabetes is when sugar levels are raised in the blood. And that can seriously damage the body. The causes are constantly being researched but it is thought that genetics, ethnic background, gender, age and the big one; lifestyle, all play a part.
It is a condition that has a significant impact on daily life, even when someone is at #work. Managing the condition can involve regular hospital or diabetes nurse appointments, checking blood sugar levels using a personal blood glucose monitor, eating at specified intervals and taking medication or administering insulin by injection.
So how does #ukemplaw have anything to do with diabetes?

The legal bit

Diabetes is a condition (depending on analysis of individual circumstances) that could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, and consequently an individual could be protected from any discriminatory behavior.
Disability test
If a physical or mental impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, the condition could be considered a #disability for the purposes of employment law.

If the definition above is satisfied, the ‘disabled’ worker will be protected from being treated #less favourably.

In addition to the main condition itself (diabetes), it is important to understand that any related conditions may also be afforded the same protection under the law. Common related conditions are known to be related to dental, kidney, heart, and muscular to name a few.

Employer Obligations

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for workers to accommodate a disability and manage, or put measures in place which overcome any disadvantages that arise as a result of the condition.

Common reasonable adjustments are:

(i) adjusted working hours
(ii) allowing frequent breaks for food / drink
(iii) time off work to attend diabetes related appointments (e.g. glaucoma testing)
(iv) specific area for insulin administration
(v) improved accessibility features
(vi) visual modifications (if eyesight is impacted)

The duty to make reasonable adjustments is not unlimited, but is dependant on the size and administrative resources of the employer.

Does the employer need to know?

In order for the obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ‘kick in’, the employer has to know, or should reasonably be expected to know that the individual has a disability.

The Equality Act includes a provision which makes it unlawful, except in certain circumstances, for employers to ask about a candidate’s health or any disability before offering them work, so this can be a minefield for employers.

What an employer can / can’t and should ask

An employer must take particular care when it comes to job interviews and the recruitment process to prevent any discrimination against individuals with health conditions.
There are only four circumstances under the Equality Act in which asking about a condition is allowed, and they apply to interviews, questionnaires and all other selection methods. ACAS provides the following guidance @ www.acas.co.uk

1. To find out if an applicant can carry out a function that’s essential to the role. This could also be to help employers work out if an applicant could do the function with reasonable adjustments made for them.
2. To take ‘positive action’ to assist applicants with disabilities. Employers may take steps to remove barriers or disadvantages and give support and encouragement to employees and job applicants with disabilities. But they’ll have to show that other groups aren’t discriminated against as a result.
3. For monitoring purposes so that employers know the diversity of candidates. This is usually done without revealing an applicant’s identity and not as part of selection decisions.
4. To check a candidate has a specific disability where having such is a genuine requirement of the job. Such ‘occupational requirements’ are governed by their own rules under the Equality Act, and cannot just be down to an employer’s preferences.
Help and Support

Managing the condition in a workplace setting can often be challenging; party due to fear of any reprisals or repercussions from an employer and due to some employers failing to understand what the condition means and how to support it.

It is important as an employer to deal with issues relating to disabilities in the workplace in a sensitive manner whilst complying with any legal obligations that may arise.

If you require advice on managing disability in the workplace, please contact Kaajal Nathwani of the Employment Team on 0208 363 4444 or kaajal.nathwani@curwens.co.uk