Employers' Attitudes to Employment of People with Epilepsy: Still the Same Old Story?

Authors


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Professor Ann Jacoby, Division of Public Health, Whelan Building (3rd Floor), The Quadrangle, Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L69 3GB, U.K. E-mail: ajacoby@liv.ac.uk

Abstract

Summary: Purpose: One area of life quality known to be compromised by having epilepsy is employment, and one factor contributing to the employment problems of people with epilepsy (PWE) is employer attitudes. Much research on this topic is now outdated and given the changing legal, medical, and social contexts in which PWE live, we therefore reexamined employer attitudes in the united Kingdom.

Method: A mail survey of a random sample of U.K. companies selected to be representative of the 14 U.K. economic regions and proportional to the number of employees.

Findings: The overall response rate was 41% (n = 204). Twenty-six percent of respondents reported having experience of employing PWE. Sixteen percent considered that there were no jobs in their company suitable for PWE; 21% thought employing PWE would be “a major issue.” Employers were uniformly of the view that PWE, even when in remission, should disclose their condition to a prospective employer. Seizure severity, frequency, and controllability were all considered important features of epilepsy in the context of employment. Epilepsy created high concern to around half of employers, including the likelihood of it being linked to a work-related accident. Employers were willing to make accommodations for PWE, in particular job sharing, temporary reassignment of duties, and flexible working hours. Attitudes to employment of PWE were influenced by company size and type and previous experience of doing so.

Conclusions: We conclude that it is still the same old story for employers' attitudes toward PWE, though happily for PWE, with some room for optimism.

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