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Diabetes in the Workplace

Posted on July 2, 2022 | No Comments on Diabetes in the Workplace

Even if you’re afflicted with diabetes, you should never think that this could hinder you from living a normal life. You can be a productive member of society and be an indispensable part of the workforce. Here are some very important things to keep in mind, for employers and employees alike, to be able to have a healthy working relationship at the office:

Know your rights
Do not worry about your condition getting in the way of your work. Employers usually ask a potential employee about qualifications to do the job. If you do want to be honest with your employer during the application process, you have to bear in my mind that you cannot be disqualified simply because of having diabetes.

However, if they do find out that you have diabetes, your employer may ask for a doctor’s note, just in case an emergency arises. With that certification, you may request for several changes or accommodations such as:

  • A change in shifts or job duties because of diabetes;
  • Accommodations related to diabetes;
  • Request for time off for treatment, recuperation, or diabetes training

In the United States, “if an employer finds out an employee has diabetes after the latter has been hired they may not fire, demote, or transfer the employee simply on the basis of having discovered the person has diabetes,” according to the Islets of Hope website.

Another thing you must remember is that you can keep your diagnosis a secret. Your employer may not share any information about your medical background. You can tell only certain people in your workplace like managers or supervisors so that they could provide reasonable accommodations. More importantly, if you have clinics in your office, you can tell the first aid supervisor or nurse in case an emergency arises.

However, if other employees start noticing these accommodations, they might start thinking of it as “special treatment”. Your employer can address these issues in a general manner. “An employer may legally offer that it is the company policy that reasonable accommodations are sometimes made, but if and when such accommodations are made they are confidential. An employer may be able to better reassure the questioning employee stating that their privacy too, would be respected if s/he ever had to ask the employer for some kind of workplace change for personal reasons,” states the same article.

In the Philippines, the Labor Code states that, “Under Section 8, Rule I, Book VI of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code, for a disease to be a valid ground for the dismissal of the employee, the continued employment of such employee is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or the health of his co-employees, and there must be a certification by a competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months, even with proper medical treatment.”

However, your employment still rests upon the decision of your employer. “Since the burden of proving the validity of the dismissal of the employee rests on the employer, the latter should likewise bear the burden of showing that the requisites for a valid dismissal due to a disease have been complied with. In the absence of the required certification by a competent public health authority, this Court has ruled against the validity of the employee’s dismissal.

Must-knows for the employer
For employers who have employees with diabetes, they must understand that it is not a qualification for disqualification. People afflicted with diabetes could live healthy and normal lives, without compromising their duties at work. Employers must remember that, “It is important, from a legal standpoint, that… concerns are based on objective evidence and not on myths, hearsay, or general assumptions,” adds the Islet of Hope article.

Refusing to hire a qualified applicant because of his or her medical condition is a form of discrimination called, “discrimination by association.” In cases when an employee starts missing out on his/her responsibilities, employers can ask that person’s medical background. However, the reason for asking must be based on an objective reason to believe that it is posing a threat in performing his/her duties in the office. In addition, if it is company policy, the employee may be asked for a medical documentation for his/ her absences.

In an event when an employee continues to fail showing up for work or is habitually late for work, then an employer can fire that employee. But for employees who are newly diagnosed with diabetes and would need some time off to recuperate, there is no reason to ask for a certificate just yet. The article explains that “The reason why is that no incident on the job has taken place and there is no reason to indicate that the employee will no longer be able to perform the job. However, if it is the policy of the company to require proof of why the absence took place for any employee, you may ask for a doctor’s note stating that the person was in fact absent, for medical reasons.”

Ridding yourself of discrimination
According to another article on the net about discrimination in the workplace, “Workplace discrimination is one of the biggest challenges faced by the adult living with diabetes. Some adults may be bypassed for a promotion simply because they are diabetic and their employers feel that this may affect their performance.”

However, ignorance may be the primary cause of discrimination in the workplace. It is suggested that information be provided to employers. Presenting them with data could make them understand that diabetes is not a hindrance to your job.

Unfortunately, if this does not work, you must then seek legal advice. Talking to a lawyer about this problem may help you sort out your differences with your co-workers and supervisors. You must, however, show proof that an incidence of discrimination did happen.

In our country however, there is still no law stipulated in our Labor Code, that provides protection for those diabetic employees suffering from discrimination in their workplace.

Emergency supplies
Keeping a regular job can prove stressful. Emergency cases may suddenly arise and it is very important for you to have supplies around. Groping around for supplies loses precious time. So keeping them in a first aid kit in your drawer is a must-do.

The most important supply to keep around is of course your blood glucose monitor. This enables you to check your blood glucose at any time, and be able to do something about it at once. Being stressed or skipping meals due to tight deadlines may cause fluctuations in your blood glucose levels, which could lead to complications. So checking your glucose levels is very important.

For those who are on insulin treatment, your insulin must always be with you. Keeping a good supply of needles and insulin vials is also important. However, bear in mind that you must always check the expiry date of the insulin. You must also have ample supplies of your oral medications with you. It is very important to take these medicines on time.

Having hard candies, sugar, regular cola or juices around is also very helpful in case of a hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) attack. Taking these at once could help your glucose levels return to normal. However, if these still do not help, it is best that you get first aid from your clinic or get yourself in a hospital.

Keeping emergency numbers posted on your desk is also very helpful. It saves time in having to take a look at your mobile phone for the numbers. Your co-workers can also help in calling for you in cases when you cannot do it yourself.

Being vigilant about your diabetes can help you go a long way with your job. It can help you get through the stress which can be inevitable in keeping a job. With good diabetes management, it could also mean less days of being away from work. And these could help you prove to your employer that even with diabetes, you are determined to do your best in your job.

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