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Employers lack knowledge of diabetes

16% of people with diabetes feel they’ve been discriminated against at work because of their condition, according to Diabetes UK

Diabetes UK's Future of Diabetes research revealed a lack of support for thousands of employees with diabetes. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said that living with diabetes had caused them difficulties at work, while 7% said that they had not told their employer they have the condition.

A quarter (25%) said that they wanted more flexibility to take time off work for health checks that are vital to avoid further complications, according to Diabetes UK.

An estimated 2.2 million British people live with diabetes, and the figure is expected to grow to five million by 2025. Managing the condition can involve taking medication – including injecting insulin – and testing blood glucose levels multiple times a day. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, affecting 90% of people with the condition.

Helen Dickens, assistant director of campaigns and mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said that a lack of employer awareness about diabetes could seriously affect the health of employees.

“Thousands of people across the UK have spoken out about how a lack of understanding from their employers can make working with diabetes not just exhausting and stressful but also potentially life-threatening. We heard from people who had to give up their jobs to manage their condition safely," she said.

Discrimination and difficulties come about because employers lack knowledge. We need to talk more about the condition and the many ways it affects people’s lives in order to persuade workplaces to offer greater understanding and flexibility. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they can ask for the support they need.”

Changing the way employers approach conversations surrounding long-term health conditions could help to reduce stigma around diabetes, added senior policy officer at Diabetes UK Natasha Wynne.

“It’s really important that employers build an inclusive environment where people feel they can talk about diabetes. In some of the worst cases we’d heard of employees said that they didn’t want to take time off because of punitive measures on sick leave. Employers should make sure that they can reassure workers they understand that some people have long-term health conditions, and that time off is sometimes unavoidable,” she told HR magazine.

Wynne added that the charity has a range of resources available for employers on how to support people with diabetes in the workplace.

Diabetes UK polled 8,512 people with the condition for the Future of Diabetes survey.