What can an employer question about my diabetes and when can they request a medical?
Prior to an offer
If you have disclosed (even voluntarily) that you have diabetes to an employer during the application process– they are not permitted to ask any questions about your diabetes treatment or prognosis. However, it is acceptable for them to ask how they can help accommodate your diabetes in order to fulfil the job requirements and uphold your diabetes management. Employers are also unable to specifically ask you to have a medical due to your diabetes diagnosis – in fact a medical examination is only acceptable if it is part of the recruitment process for every applicant.
After accepting an offer
When a job offer is made, an employer can ask questions about your treatment (oral/insulin and frequency etc.), occurrence and treatment of hypoglycaemia, and the duration of your diagnosis. A medical may also be requested by the employer to ensure you can safely fulfil the essential job requirements. An employer cannot withdraw a job offer if you can perform the necessary requirements of the position.
Other times an employer can request medical information
Your employee may request a medical if your performance has deteriorated due to diabetes (i.e. evidence demonstrating increased toilet breaks is resulting in not answering incoming telephone calls), or after requested leave due to diabetes in order to determine your ability to return safely.
The benefits of telling your work you have diabetes
Research indicates diabetes management is enhanced by education, communication and support in the workplace. If informed of diabetes an employer should accommodate:
An appropriate place to administer injections or checking blood glucose.
Suitable time provision to: snack, treat hypoglycaemia or to test blood glucose. Consideration should also be given towards work schedules and shift change.
If hypoglycaemia occurs immediate assistance can be provided if necessary. Provide a hypoglycaemia educational sheet for peace of mind.
For illness, diabetes training or recuperation.
Remember an employer’s responsibility is to uphold confidentiality, therefore they cannot discuss with your co-workers why such accommodations’ are in place.
What is workplace discrimination?
Direct discrimination may be apparent when a person is refused employment by an employer simply because they have diabetes. Otherwise, inappropriate questions or actions (i.e. limits or refusal to training or promotions) may be considered harassment or discrimatory.
Do not despair - if less favourable actions by an employer are apparent there is anti-discrimatory legislation that can assist you further. For further information refer to diabetes associations or appropriate legal representatives.
If however you feel a co-worker is treating you unfairly due to diabetes, discuss this with your manager/employer to help resolve the issue.
Responsibilities as an employee in the workplace:
Last but not least, as an employee you also have diabetes responsibilities to uphold– so always consider the following in your employment;
Ensure standards of driving and operating heavy machinery criteria are upheld (Check blood sugar level is within 5-10mmol or 90-180mg/dL prior to action)
In case of emergency – carry identification indicating you have diabetes
Dispose of sharps responsibly
Provide a hypo/emergency pack to your employer
Check blood sugar level prior to undertaking hazardous tasks
Treat hypos (<4mmol/L or <72mg/dL) immediately!
Make sure you have enough food and hypo supplies at all times (remember that includes vehicles).
Please see the following articles for more information: