Diabetes and workplace advocacy

During 2020 workplaces have undergone a profound change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With these changes Diabetes Queensland has seen a shift in the calls we’re receiving for support on workplace advocacy from people living with diabetes.

How have things changed

Previously, most workplace complaints centred around individuals being treated differently and negatively because of their diabetes. These were usually fairly clear cases of discrimination. However with the changes to workplaces that have had to be put in place this year, we are now receiving calls about returning to work, exclusions from workplaces, and health and safety policies.

Not all of the issues raised are clear-cut discrimination. It’s important to remember that these are new circumstances for everybody, so communication with your employer about your diabetes and your circumstance is the key.

Trends we’ve noticed

Medical certification

Some workplaces are treating their employees with diabetes differently, but because of health concerns.

The risk of COVID-19 having severe impact on the health for people living with diabetes has been well publicised. This has led to some employers insisting that people with existing conditions (like diabetes) obtaining medical certification before returning to the workplace.

This is not necessarily discrimination – it may be in line with industry or company health and safety regulations.  However, if these directives are causing disadvantage (reduced income or hours for people with diabetes but not other employees), compared to working from home with the same entitlements as colleagues, then this may meet the criteria for discrimination.

Flexible working arrangements

Different industries, different companies and even different offices have had varied responses to the pandemic. Some have returned to physical workspaces quickly, others are still working from home, while many are somewhere in-between.

Many companies are still trying to find the right balance as remote working has become normalised.

If a person living with diabetes needs to maintain the increased flexibility of working from home for at least some of the working hours, then they should file a written request to their manager. This should be responded to in 21 days.

This is the grounds for a negotiation between employer and employee, not an entitlement to flexibility. It also applies to employees who have been in the company for more than 12 months, and are not casual. More information about this is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Other aspects including workplace payments (JobKeeper), Government directives, social distancing and health policies can affect these decisions, so the best first step is to talk to your manager.

Help with workplace advocacy

2020 has brought about many changes at home and at work. If you need help with workplace advocacy call us on 1800 177 o55. We’re here to help.

For more information about diabetes in the workplace read our helpful guide.

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes