Diabetes Sufferers Are Experiencing Discrimination At Work
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest study, in 2014, 29.1 million Americans - nearly 10% of the population - had diabetes. Discrimination at work because of diabetes is more common than one might think. Statistically, it’s very possible that a member of your team suffers with diabetes but hasn’t disclosed this to you.
Assistant director of campaigns and mobilization at Diabetes UK, Helen Dickens, commented:
‘Diabetes is one of the largest health crises of our time. Missing essential health checks or not taking medication on time can lead to devastating complications, such as amputations, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and even early death. Discrimination and difficulties come about because employers lack knowledge about diabetes and do not understand its impact. We need to talk more about the condition and the many ways it affects people’s lives to persuade places of work to offer greater understanding and flexibility. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they can ask for the support they need’.
Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became effective on January 1, 2009, states that all persons with diabetes are considered to have a “disability” within the meaning of that law. There are laws that protect you from discrimination. For example, it would be unlawful for an employer to put a blanket ban on the recruitment of people with the condition.
What’s evident though, as is often the case when it comes to equality legislation, is that box ticking is never enough. Progress requires a greater understanding, and going beyond the intricacies of the law.
So if you employ a person with diabetes, how should you be ensuring that they are getting the support they need, and that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities as an employer? The needs of individuals will of course vary greatly, but the bottom line is that you have a duty of care. It pays to ensure that you have an understanding of the illness and the requirements that sufferers may have.
They might, for example, need to take breaks at certain times so they can test their blood sugar levels and inject insulin. They may also require time off to attend medical appointments.
We’ve come a long way in recent years when it comes to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces that support the needs of employees, but it’s clear that in many respects, we’re only just scratching the surface. There’s still work to be done, and exemplary employers need to lead the way. What can you do in your workplace to make the change?
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