Epilepsy Sparks

Employers & Epilepsy - UK Parliamentary event

Employers & Epilepsy - UK Parliamentary event

This week I attended a meeting in the London Parliamentary Estate as an Ambassador for The Corporate Alliance. They work with employers to lessen the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. Well. This got me thinking. In my humble opinion, many teams and First-Aiders of the workplace require more training when it comes to epilepsy. Yes, companies are already required to have First-Aiders:

“The Health and Safety (FirstAid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.”

…but these people often aren’t as knowledgeable as required when it comes to excitable brains. They should know how to help a colleague in the first stages of a seizure (e.g. should someone have an aura), when they are going for it (during) and then afterwards too.

It should be noted that lots of people still don’t tell their colleagues about their epilepsy (my thoughts on that are for another time!) and indeed, someone could be having their first seizure ever. So whether a First Aider is aware of a diagnosis or not, they need to be prepared.

Extended professional training would heighten the level of safety for the colleague in question (e.g. ensuring that they are in a safe place and don’t go and bash themselves….yes, I’ve done that) and would reduce levels of stress for team members. Indeed, from a business perspective, this training would be good for business Health & Safety, HR and PR!

When I worked for KPMG in London, my team were brilliant. I was very open about my condition, so when I started off with a partial, my team knew exactly what to do. In fact, the colleague sat opposite me noticed both my lip-smacking and my “interesting” eye movements, so without panicking alerted our manager (who also happened to be the team First Aider). The manager then went for a “walk” with me to a safer, clearer space (I decided to go for a wander, then go full throttle with the tonic-clonic). The manager was there for me and let me go for it without injuring myself. It was an example of fantastic work from the whole team. There was none of that freaking out. We’d all prepared through:

·         Professional first aid training for the nominated First Aider

·         Me informing the team about my epilepsy; what to do and what not to do

·         Me confidently answering all questions that the team had

Why shouldn’t all teams be prepared for when/if a colleague has a seizure? Epilepsy is not anything for us to be ashamed of. Again, it’s easy for me to say this (trust me, post-seizure, I’m embarrassed…. I’m not sure what’s happened, I’m horrifically emotional, I’m off my face and my skirt might be riding up in a rather unladylike position…. (yes, I’ve been there….) but it’s not our fault. Educated and professionally trained people know this.

Companies from the UK should contact Epilepsy Action who provide professional training. Plus, if they are lucky, in a few months’ time they’ll have me providing the training (I’m going to become an Accredited Volunteer!).

So. That’s my thought of the day.

P.S. If an employer does not show understanding and instead discriminates against an employee then they should be shamed. Publicly. No company wants negative PR, so they’d better be listening to us right now, pull their socks up and get with it. Otherwise, perhaps we should recommend a lawyer for them. They’ll need one

Torie Robinson

International Public Speaker & Consultant - Epilepsy, Mental Health, Diversity & Inclusion

Epilepsy Sparks CEO - featured on BBC, HuffPost, Sky News & More.

Does your company require an inspiring speech or some consultancy on epilepsy, mental health, and diversity & inclusion? Contact: torie@epilepsysparks.com