Ask an Educator: What should someone living with epilepsy know about epilepsy and employment?
Unfortunately, there are some vocations not available to anyone with epilepsy, even where seizure control has been achieved. These include pilot, air traffic controller, commercial driver, and jobs involving high voltage electricity, heights, heavy machinery, or water.
Who should I tell?
Even when you have a job, misconceptions about epilepsy and fear of stigma can make people reluctant to tell employers about their diagnosis. Ultimately, your health is a personal and private issue and whether or not you disclose your epilepsy is up to you. While there is no legal requirement for an employee to disclose their epilepsy to their employer or colleagues, if people in your workplace are aware of your condition, it may reduce risks associated with a seizure. It also means they can be prepared to assist you if required, and will be aware of safety issues that may apply to you. If your direct supervisor/s are informed, they can then make reasonable accommodations for you should they be required.
Can I get any help finding employment?
In Australia, there is a range of Disability Employment Services (DES) established to assist people to find employment. Usually, an intake officer will go through the registration process and conduct an informal discussion face to face or by phone to determine which program is the best fit moving forward. Anyone living with a disability, health condition, or injury can directly register with a service they believe best suits their needs or can be referred by Centrelink or referred/recommended by a community organisation/service. Usually, proof of disability can be provided through a medical verification form or letter from a medical specialist or via an Employment Services Assessment conducted by an independent medical professional appointed by Centrelink who can then make a referral to a DES.
People seeking assistance from a DES do not necessarily need to be in receipt of payments from Centrelink, however, an individual will be required to apply for a CRN (Customer Reference Number) through Centrelink. More information about the range of DES providers and the services they offer can be found on the Job Access website: www.jobaccess.gov.au Through this website, people can find out more about the service they think would best serve their individual needs.
Some general tips and hints on looking for employment:
Having an up to date resume.
– Draft a cover letter with help from your provider but tailor this to suit the job/employer and do your homework (quality over quantity).
– Keep your provider up to date with jobs you have applied for.
– Job opportunities are not always advertised online. The face to face approach still works.
– Be open about other job choices.
– Ask your provider about opportunities they are working on – it’s a shared effort.
Disclosure about disability, health conditions, and injury is very personal and completely one’s choice on how this should be dealt with. A strengths-based approach is a great way to tell an employer (with the support of a provider where required) that one has overcome some personal barriers with self-determination to get to a stage where they are motivated and ready to work.
Employment rights for people with epilepsy
Federal and State anti-discrimination laws legally protect people with epilepsy from discrimination. You are entitled to take legal action if you believe you have been discriminated against because of your epilepsy. If you believe you have been unfairly treated in the workplace due
to your epilepsy status and would like to speak confidentially with someone, you can contact our Services team on 07 3435 5000 (metro) or 1300 852 853 (outside Brisbane).
Workplace advocacy and training
Epilepsy Queensland can assist with conversations with employers to help build an understanding of epilepsy or provide you with wording should you wish to disclose epilepsy to your employer. We also offer in-house or on-site training for Understanding Epilepsy and Seizure First Aid to help build understanding in the workplace and help employees feel comfortable in assisting someone who has a seizure.