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Survey highlights workplace discrimination against people with epilepsy

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    Epilepsy is the world’s most common chronic neurological condition but it is still widely misunderstood in the workplace. A new survey reveals the challenges faced by people with epilepsy and should inspire us all to do more to overcome stigma.

    The YouGov poll conducted in the UK found that one in four employees (26%) would be concerned about working with a colleague who had epilepsy. Of those, the majority (63%) said their worry stemmed from not knowing how to help a co-worker suffering from a seizure.

    This lack of knowledge and understanding may be unsettling but also shows there is great scope for addressing the stigma around epilepsy.

    The need for action is urgent. Around 65 million people have epilepsy worldwide. It is especially prevalent in early childhood, in people over 65 and in old age – but can affect people of any age.

    Improving lives
    Raising awareness in schools, colleges and businesses is essential if we are to improve the daily lives of people living with epilepsy.

    The key misunderstandings emerging from the new survey centre on seizures. According to the YouGov survey, three quarters of participants (76%) had never been offered training on what to do if someone were to have a seizure at work.

    Perhaps what they fear most is the unknown.

    Epileptic seizures can come in many forms and can be hard to recognise. Given the prevalence of epilepsy, information campaigns and training could be of significant benefit.

    Training and support
    Workplace discrimination against people with epilepsy runs deep. According to the Epilepsy Society, a UK patient group, people with epilepsy are twice as likely to be at risk of unemployment compared with the general population.

    Patient advocates are calling for better workplace training to help epilepsy sufferers to feel safer and more supported at work – and to give their colleagues the confidence to intervene in the event of a seizure.

    Employers too could benefit from learning more about the condition and may be more open to recruiting people who have epilepsy if they understood the disease in more depth.

    People with epilepsy can face many challenges in controlling symptoms, maintaining relationships and living a normal life. Let’s do all we can to ensure that they do not face needless obstacles to entering and thriving in the workforce.

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