Last reviewed 21 June 2021

According to the British Safety Council (BSC), the number of adults living with diabetes has more than tripled over the past 20 years and it is now one of the fastest growing health challenges of the 21st century.

As diabetes can have an impact on productivity, affect eyesight, concentration and result in time off work, it is important for employers to know how they can help employees cope with their diabetes in the workplace and manage the unique risks.

The BSC carried out a survey asking employers how they manage diabetes in the workplace and specifically whether they:

  • are aware of their legal responsibilities if one of their workers has diabetes

  • implement and review risk assessments for the role(s) workers with diabetes undertake.

The BSC found that 59% of employers that responded did not know their legal responsibilities if one of their workers has diabetes, while a similar proportion (58%) did not implement and review risk assessments for the role(s) workers with diabetes undertake.

It is concerned by these findings which show, the Council argues, a general lack of awareness among employers of how to manage diabetes in the workplace, as well as the risks that need to be assessed and managed.

It points out that, while there is currently no specific legislation covering diabetes in the workplace, there are legal duties on employers under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.

Employers also have a legal duty to non-employees who are affected by what the employer does, such that they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

BSC Chief Executive Mike Robinson said: “The results of our survey show that a significant number of employers are unaware of their responsibility to manage diabetes in the workplace. Failure to do so can have serious consequences and leave employers liable to criminal prosecution should an accident occur.”

Simple steps to support employees with diabetes include regular breaks to allow diabetic workers to monitor their blood sugars and provision of a safe, discreet and clean environment in which to administer their dose of insulin.

See our feature Diabetes in the workplace.