Supporting People with Diabetes in the Workplace

Supporting People with Diabetes in the Workplace

World Diabetes Day – 14th November 2020

14th November 2020 is World Diabetes Day, and to recognise this we sat down with David Simpson, who has had type 1 Diabetes since 1988, and asked him to give a personal experience of how to cope with Diabetes especially in the workplace.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a life-long condition which there is no cure. It can seriously affect a person’s ability to do normal day-to-day things. Because of this people with diabetes may need reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Challenges in work and outside of work come with Diabetes.

How to manage it?

Managing diabetes on a day to day basis involves taking medication (including insulin injections) at the right time and testing blood sugar levels multiple times a day. Blood sugar testing gives an accurate picture of someone’s blood sugar level at the time of the test. Testing sugar levels throughout the day is important for people with diabetes as it can help to monitor for symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) or hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels). Testing is also important for people with diabetes to get an understanding of how well their diabetes is being managed and whether their treatment may need to be altered. For some people injecting medication and testing blood sugar levels can be quite personal, so provision may need to be made in the workplace for somewhere they can do so hygienically and privately.

Do you tell a new Employer?

My first role in Recruitment was with an employer based in Leeds. I didn’t tell them I was a diabetic and my first day didn’t go too well to say the least. I arrived at 8am without any food in my rucksack and by mid-morning my sugar levels were dropping to the extent I was experiencing hypoglycaemia. I nearly threw my computer screen out of the 6th floor. Nobody knew what to do as I didn’t tell anyone. My immediate boss must have thought oh no ……… what have we hired!!

This highlights it is important that people with diabetes tell their employer they have diabetes, so that they are aware of any reasonable adjustments that may need to be made in the workplace. For example, people with diabetes may need flexibility in their working hours or a private space to take their insulin injections or do blood tests. It is also good for employers to be aware that people living with diabetes may also have to deal with complications as a result of their condition. People with diabetes will also require time off work to attend hospital/doctors’ appointments for regular check- ups.

Support from colleagues

A situation where this is especially important is for people who treat their diabetes with insulin as it makes hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) more likely. In most circumstances, people with diabetes are able to recognise the symptoms of a hypo (hypoglycaemia) and treat it. However, it is important for colleagues to be able to recognise the symptoms of a hypo, know what treatments are suitable and where they could be found (e.g. a person’s drawer) and if necessary, give help treating a hypo.

At FPSG they have been very supportive and all of the staff know what to do if my blood sugars drop. All the management team have lucozade/chocolate in their drawers and most can recognise if my blood sugars go too low. Luckily this has not happened too often……

Support from employers

Sometimes living with a demanding condition like diabetes can lead to diabetes burnout. It’s the term given when people feel frustrated and overwhelmed by diabetes. All feelings are focused around diabetes so outwardly an individual may not seem unhappy.

Employers have a role in supporting people with emotional and psychological needs.

In conclusion, it is important that people with diabetes feel supported as much as possible in the workplace, by their employers and colleagues, to manage their condition effectively. With the right treatment and support people with diabetes can still lead a long, full and healthy life.

Get in touch!

David has been in recruitment since 1997 and Procurement recruitment for the past 15 years. If you would like any advice/support with anything to do with diabetes or you have any recruitment needs please drop him a line on