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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    Managing diabetes in the workplace

    Managing diabetes in the workplace

    Posted on May 24th, 2022

    There are currently around 4 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes. It is a condition that requires careful management throughout the day, and that doesn’t stop during working hours. It is therefore important that diabetic employees are supported in the workplace to manage their condition in order to lower their risk of developing diabetes-related complications. Employers can do so in a number of ways, and these reasonable adjustments can make all the difference to the health and wellbeing of their diabetic team members.

    What is diabetes?
    There are two main types of diabetes, both of which are lifelong conditions that cause a person’s blood glucose level to become too high.

    • Type 1 diabetes: The less common type, here the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
    • Type 2 diabetes: The more common type, in fact around 90% of all UK adults with diabetes have type 2. Here, the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin.

    In addition, some pregnant women may develop what is know as gestational diabetes where they have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all.

    Causes of diabetes
    Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which controls the amount of glucose in your blood. When you eat and digest food, it enters your bloodstream, and it is the role of insulin to move the glucose out of your blood and into your cells where it is turned into energy. Those with diabetes, however, are unable to break down this glucose into energy.

    The risks associated with diabetes
    Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood glucose, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time it can lead to serious damage to nerves and blood vessels. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. Worryingly, the number of cases of diabetes is on the rise and, according to the World Health Organization, between 2000 and 2016 there was a 5% increase in premature mortality from diabetes.

    Lowering your risk of diabetes
    Whilst the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, scientists believe it could be caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that trigger the disease. No lifestyle changes will lower your risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

    However, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

    Managing diabetes
    All employees with diabetes have a right to a risk assessment and a right to ask for reasonable adjustments in the workplace to help them manage their condition. As a starter, the Occupational Healthcare experts at YourGP have compiled a list of suggested adjustments. However, it is important to remember that every diabetic is an individual. Therefore, it is always best to talk to them and find out if they have any other specific requirements that they feel could improve their working life.

    • Talk openly: Employees should be made to feel comfortable enough to discuss their condition with their line manager, should they wish. This ultimately comes down to encouraging a culture of openness and inclusion in your workplace.
    • Educate your team: It is essential that all team members are educated about health issues such as diabetes and informed about how to spot the symptoms of a hypo (which is when an individual’s blood glucose level drops too low).
    • Appoint a First Aider: Every workplace should have a trained First Aider. (Ensuring the whole team receives First Aid training is even better!)
    • Encourage frequent breaks: Those with diabetes may need to inject their insulin and prick their finger to monitor their blood glucose levels at regular intervals throughout the day. It is therefore important that they are given breaks to do so and, if possible, it may also be helpful to designate a private, quiet area in which they can do so.
    • Enable them to plan their schedule: Ensure your employee is able to take breaks on a regular basis in order to manage their blood glucose levels. Flexible working hours and giving them control of planning their own meeting times can enable them to do this.
    • Out-of-hours considerations: Be mindful of your employee’s needs when making out-of-hours requests, such as overtime or travel.
    • Allow time off when necessary: Those with diabetes may require time off work to attend medical appointments. Be flexible and understanding when responding to these requests.
    • Keep a check on stress levels: Stress has the potential to raise blood glucose levels, so ensure your employee’s workload is carefully monitored and check in with them regularly to ensure they are coping.

    If you would like help and advice from YourGP’s team of Occupational Healthcare experts about creating a safe and healthy working environment for all employees, make an appointment by calling 0131 225 5656 or email occhealth@your.gp.

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    L – Livingston – Lyndsey

    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 | hcis.clinicregulation@nhs.net