Information and guidance for employers on supporting employees who have diabetes including legal obligations
Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), there may be further support required for your employee who has a health condition due to diabetes.
They may be in the category identified by the Scottish Government at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. To protect themselves, they have been issued with a letter informing them of
shielding (external site) and what this means for them.
Within this shielding letter, there is lots of information on support for them. They can also use this to provide evidence to you as their employer that they cannot work outside their own home.
If they have not received a letter requesting them to follow shielding protocol, you may find that they still fall into a category of higher risk. This can be identified by the fact they get offered the flu vaccine by their GP. They do not need to accept this offer, but they need to have been classified by their GP as needing it because of their health condition.
These pages give more information on the specific condition. They should be read in conjunction with our
Supporting employees with long term health conditions pages to help you understand how a workplace can assist in helping an employee return to and remain at work.
There are 2 different types of Diabetes – type 1 and type 2, depending on which type your employee has been diagnosed with will depend on their treatment
Prognosis (outlook) and physical and mental impact on the individual can vary, even with those with similar diagnoses. Treatment side effects can also be variable and debilitating on a day to day basis, and sometimes longer term.
However, having good control of the condition helps reduce the likelihood of this.
As an employer you may need some external support from other agencies, such as Access to Work or charities such as Diabetes Scotland or an NHS Diabetic Liaison Nurse to provide additional advice and support for you and your employee.
You may find employees with a diagnosis of diabetes may have increased levels of sickness absence or they may need to attend the hospital or their specialist more frequently than those without the health condition.
Authorised absence, out with the normal organisation sickness absence triggers, should be considered an appropriate adjustment under the Equality Act 2010, this would be identified within your Supporting Staff Attendance Policy.
If you feel your policy doesn’t include this, you can get support from our
Supporting staff attendance pages.
Other areas that you can consider when supporting an employee with diabetes may include
Insulin dependent diabetics are more at risk than those on oral medication of having a hypoglycaemic attack, commonly known as a “hypo”. This is when the blood glucose drops too low.
This may be because your employee hasn’t eaten enough or skipped a meal or has been undertaking a strenuous role or exercising more and hasn’t adjusted their food intake and insulin dose to accommodate it.
Having a hypo can lead to confusion and unconsciousness if not treated quickly with a fast acting carbohydrate such as glucose sweets/drinks.
Diabetic employees should carry a “hypo kit” and be allowed to have ready access to this. After the initial fast action with glucose sweets/drink, more complex carbohydrates are recommended (i.e. bread/crisps) to minimise further hypos. It takes approximately 45 minutes for cognitive function to be restored after a hypo.
When your employee is having a hypo it is good practice to have a safe and clean area they can go to for recovery, with the ability to have time to recover and eat the food needed for their recovery.
Key sources of support for both the employer and employee include
For information on workplace health, safety and wellbeing, contact your local health board team