What Can I Do If An Employee Suffers From Migraines? Migraines are hell. They are thought to involve a temporary disturbance to the nerve signals, blood vessels and chemistry of the brain. The exact causes of migraines are unclear but they are believed to have a genetic element and can be passed on through genes.
Health experts estimate that some 6 million people in the UK (one in seven people) suffer from migraine, and two thirds of sufferers are women. Migraines may affect people as infrequently as once a year or as often as a few times a week. When migraines do strike, they can be debilitating, and sufferers are often unable to carry out normal day-to-day tasks or work productively. Not exactly what you want when you’re on a call with a client, or you’re heading into a meeting to give a presentation to the directors. So, what can you do if you or your employees suffer with them at work? We spoke to Emma O’Leary, HR Director at ELAS, to discuss what sufferers can do to help combat symptoms.
“Migraines can be debilitating so it’s important to offer support to sufferers in the workplace. Adjustments to screens, work load, working hours and lighting may help to alleviate and employers should work with occupational health to ensure the best environment for their staff that suffer with migraines. Working with occupational health and putting adjustments in place should also help to reduce absences caused by migraines. For those that do still suffer and cannot be assisted by their working environment, it would not be a case of providing time off but more about how their absences are handled if they are caused by migraines. So it may require employers to review or adjust their absence monitoring criteria so that genuine sufferers are not penalised by absence trigger points. Particularly if the particular migraine condition has a long term adverse effect on the day to day living of the employee, then it may be considered a disability under the Equality Act. This would then certainly require reasonable adjustments and ensuring that the employee is not treated less favourably on the grounds of their condition. Again working with occupational health would help to establish that.”
25 million work days are lost in the UK due to migraine. Taking steps to support staff and tackle potential migraine triggers in the workplace (e.g. ensuring that employees have DSE assessments, encouraging good posture, reducing ‘nuisance’ noise where possible, ensuring that lighting is effective, and encouraging staff to take regular breaks from long periods of screen-based work) will help organisations reduce staff sickness and improve morale and staff retention.