Health Wise – Supporting Employees with Diabetes at Work
This week (11-17 June) is an important week for the awareness of health and wellbeing in the workplace. Not only is it Cervical Screening Awareness Week 2018, but it’s also Diabetes Week 2018.
Organised by Diabetes UK, the leading UK charity that cares for, connects with, and campaigns on behalf of all people affected by and at risk of diabetes, Diabetes Week 2018 is all about encouraging people to #talkaboutdiabetes.
We’ve already shared some information about women and diabetes, which was the theme of World Diabetes Day 2017.
To encourage more people to start a conversation about diabetes at work, we thought we’d share some tips on how people can talk to their employer and the best way for employers to respond.
Top tips for employees with diabetes
It can be difficult to be open and honest about diabetes. Here are some tips that will hopefully make your working life a bit easier.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your diabetes openly and honestly, but you also shouldn’t feel under pressure to tell your employer everything.
You can just go through the basics about your diabetes and shouldn’t feel like you have to go into great detail.
Do it on your terms
Choose the space and time that’s right for you to talk about it.
Whether that’s first thing on a Monday morning in a meeting room, over a coffee in your lunch break, or even after work.
Find the time and place that makes you feel most comfortable.
Tell them about Diabetes UK
Diabetes is a complicated condition that’s hard to explain in a short meeting.
The Diabetes UK website has plenty of information. Maybe print off some leaflets and take them with you.
Know your rights
Any employer should react sympathetically and recognise the implications of supporting an employee with diabetes at work.
However, it’s worth knowing what rights you have to avoid potential discrimination.
Diabetes UK has put together an Employment and Diabetes Advocacy Pack that can help.
Top tips for employers supporting employees with diabetes
As an employer, it’s important to provide help and support to any staff member with specific health needs. If an employee tells you that they are diabetic, here are the top things you need to know.
People with diabetes need to look after and manage their diabetes on a day-to-day basis.
This involves taking medication (including injections) at the right time and, for some people, testing blood glucose levels with a blood glucose meter multiple times a day.
For some, injecting medication and testing blood glucose levels can be quite personal. Employers should provide somewhere in the workplace where an employer can do this hygienically and privately.
Awareness of diabetes in the workplace
The focus of Diabetes Week 2018 is all about encouraging people to #talkaboutdiabetes.
Once an employer is aware of some of the adjustments that might need to be made, it’s worth suggesting that the individual also informs their colleagues. But only if they feel comfortable doing so.
Should they need flexibility in their working hours or a private place to take their insulin injections or do blood tests, it’s helpful for other staff members to understand why this is.
It also means that colleagues can look out for the symptoms of a hypoglycaemic episode. It may also be helpful to have an emergency hypo box containing hypo treatments in the workplace.
Appointments & courses
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that needs constant monitoring and management.
Once a year, anyone with diabetes will need to go to an annual health review. They can also attend free diabetes education courses.
Employers should be mindful of this fact and open to adjusting working patterns so that the individual can attend these important appointments and courses.
Illness and diabetes
Since a person with diabetes is managing an illness as well as their diabetes, it may take longer for them to recover than a person without diabetes.
When dealing with absence management, employers should be willing to make adjustments to their practices, policies and procedures to accommodate a higher level of sickness absence for an employer with diabetes.
Emotional wellbeing and diabetes
Sometimes living with a demanding condition like diabetes can lead to diabetes burnout, also known as diabetes distress.
This will mean that an individual can feel frustrated, defeated and overwhelmed by diabetes.
They may want to seek further support. The best route to take would probably be for them to approach their GP. However, it may also be possible to access counselling services via the workplace.
You can find more information in Diabetes UK’s guide to supporting people with diabetes in the workplace.
If you’d like to find out how our own occupational health services can help employers support staff members with diabetes at work, give us a call today.