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Diabetes and employment (our position)

We believe it is unacceptable that significant numbers of people living with diabetes or caring for someone with diabetes experience discrimination or difficulties in the workplace because of their diabetes.

We’ve written a position statement about diabetes and employment which brings together the evidence on these issues. We give you the key points here, and you can also download the full statement as a PDF

This position sets out the available evidence on diabetes and employment. We make recommendations for how employers, national policymakers, and health and employment services can ensure people with diabetes can safely manage their diabetes at work and return to work where they may have taken time out due to their health.  

We also make recommendations to policymakers about the wider structures and regulations which need to be in place and enforced to make sure that people with diabetes can remain in work and earn enough to live healthy lives.  

The common issues people living with diabetes describe that this position statement sets out to address are: 

  • A lack of employer understanding about diabetes and its complications; 

  • Stigma from managers and colleagues leading to workers with diabetes being reluctant to disclose their condition or not being confident in asserting their rights;

  • Limited flexibility to take breaks to eat, to take medications or to attend medical appointments and diabetes education courses, and a corresponding lack of coordination for diabetes appointments.

Workplaces also have a role to play in supporting healthy environments which can contribute to preventing type 2 diabetes on a population-wide level, and so that people can live well with diabetes and avoid complications.  

This position statement also covers pay and support with returning to work. Low and insecure income affects health. This can mean that people in low-paid and insecure work (such as agency, zero-hours and so-called ‘gig economy’ work) can be at particular risk of developing type 2 diabetes and related complications. Black and South Asian communities are also overrepresented in low-paid work, while being more likely to be living with type 2 diabetes.  

We want to see an end to people with diabetes getting trapped in cycles of low incomes and poor health. Supporting people to remain in and return to high quality work, and offering good levels of social security support when they can’t, can help narrow these inequalities. 

To produce this statement, we carried out a literature review of the available evidence from the UK and internationally and brought this together with findings from our engagement work with people living with diabetes. This includes findings from the Tackling Inequalities Commission, where we used focus groups and in-depth interviews to listen to the voices of people with diabetes who’ve experienced the impact of inequality on their health, and to the healthcare professionals and organisations working to ensure everyone has the same chance to fair care.  

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