Learning and Work

Jobs you can and can't do...

These days there are very few jobs you can't do because of your diabetes and having diabetes doesn't mean that you won't be able to find a job. But as with everyone else it is important to apply for jobs that interest you, ones which suit you and you are qualified to do.

Thinking about the future can be very scary and not everyone knows what they want to do. Before you begin to seriously consider jobs it is advisable to be aware of the jobs you cannot do. Some jobs have blanket restrictions placed on individuals with insulin treated diabetes applying for them, these are mainly where a job is seen as being hazardous in some way. These jobs include the following:

  • Jobs requiring a heavy good vehicle licence or a licence to drive certain passenger carrying vehicles (e.g. airline pilot).
  • Armed forces
  • Police force
  • Fire service
  • Ambulance service (front line emergency services)
  • Working off shore, (e.g. on oil rigs or aboard cruise liners)
  • Working at heights
  • Horse jockey
  • Train driving

Whilst this may seem unfair this is the situation at present, but things may change in the future. Contact Diabetes UK for more information about these issues.

Where to start..

Discussions with teachers, family, friends or a careers adviser will help you to form some ideas about which job or career may interest you. Once you have some ideas it is useful to find out as much information as you can about the job and what will be required.

Once you have decided on the type of work you would like to do the next step is to look for job opportunities. Jobs are usually advertised in the local and national newspapers regularly. Your local Employment Agency or Connexions also offer help and advise about local job vacancies. If you are looking for a particular type of work you could write to appropriate employers or organisations requesting information about current or future job vacancies.

Writing your CV..

Knowing where to start and what to put in a Curriculum Vitae (CV) can be confusing. Your CV should include information about yourself, your education, qualifications and relevant experience. Be precise and include a summary of what you have achieved. Remember a CV that is too long or too many pages may well be ignored, you can always expand on the things you have included in your CV if you get an interview. You do not need to mention your diabetes on your general CV. Contact www.connexions-direct.com for useful advise and guidance on writing a CV.

Completing an application form...

Some jobs require a completed job application form, some jobs will request a completed application form and a CV whilst other jobs require a CV only to apply. Application forms are to provide information about yourself and information about your suitability for a job. You do not need to mention your diabetes on the general application form unless it contains health information questions.

Diabetes should be disclosed on any separate health questionnaire you are required to complete as part of a job application.

What and when to tell employers about your diabetes...

If a job application form has a section on health this is the place to disclose you have diabetes. It is important that you answer honestly. You can use descriptions such as 'well controlled diabetes' (so long as this is true), where you are asked about illness.

Keeping your diabetes a secret in a job interview is not advisable. It is important to tell the people you are going to work with about your diabetes. However this should not dominate the interview. It is important to emphasise your strengths and skills (e.g. enthusiasm, ability, reliability). If your diabetes is not discussed as part of the interview, it is advisable for you to disclose this at the first appropriate opportunity.


  1. Emphasise the positive - having diabetes means you take care of your health.
  2. Looking after your diabetes takes discipline, self reliance and maturity - all are qualities an employer will value.
  3. Get used to explaining your diabetes in an interview situation. Practice going over what you may be asked and explaining your diabetes to a friend.

A confident explanation about your diabetes and how it affects you along with an indication of what you may need to manage this at work. This tells an employer that you know your condition well, how it affects you, that you are taking responsibility for this and won't be relying on others to do this for you. These are all desirable qualities to an employer.

It is advisable to avoid negative statements such as:

  • Sometimes I won't be able to do any work when I'm having a hypo.
  • You will always know when I'm having a hypo because I get annoyed with people and shout.
  • I will always need to have someone with me just in case I have a hypo.
  • It will be difficult for me to get to work on time because I have to do blood tests.

Being in control...

Be responsible for yourself at work. Don't expect work colleagues to look out for your hypo's and don't use your diabetes as an excuse to avoid work or particular jobs you don't like.

If your diabetes is not well controlled, get some help from the diabetes team. If you are doing your best to manage you diabetes then an employer will be more helpful and sympathetic towards it.

Telling others

The first step is telling your employer at interview about your diabetes. Then it's sensible to tell the people you will be working with.

Try to do this in a positive way. Many people are badly informed about diabetes. Ignorance and fear are not uncommon, if people do not fully understand diabetes. It is useful to rehearse a simple explanation about diabetes, this is all you need to give. If you don't present your diabetes to others as a problem then it is less likely that others will see it this way also. This will reduce over reactions from others and ensure that your hypo is dealt with correctly if one happens at work. Its always useful to know who is the first aider and make sure they know what to do in an emergency.

Leaflets can be a useful way of providing others with information to assist them:
Diabetes UK email www.diabetes.org.uk
NHS Direct email www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk tel: 0845 4647
or your local Diabetes clinic will be able to provide you with appropriate leaflets.

What if I have a hypo at work?

Hopefully this will not happen but, you do need to be prepared. (see section on hypo's for more information)

It is always worth looking at why a hypo happens at work (e.g. not having regular breaks), as these are issues that you can discuss with an employer to make sure this avoided in the future and doesn't become a problem.

Taking time off...

All employees need to take time off work at some time due to illness or to attend hospital appointments, whether they have diabetes or not. It may be helpful if you could arrange clinic appointments together and give an employer plenty of advance notice of this.

If you need to take time off due to illness always keep your employer informed, seek medical advice promptly if required.

Shift work...

Your diabetes should not prevent you from doing a job that involves shift work. However it is always advisable to discuss your diabetes management regime with a member of the diabetes team to ensure it allows you the flexibility required for shift changes.

What if you feel you have not been fairly treated?

It's a fact that in the course of finding employment you may encounter ignorance and prejudice. Not everyone is aware that well-controlled diabetes doesn't need to be a problem at work. Some employers may assume that having diabetes means that you will be off sick more or will need to be treated differently from others.

If you have been refused a job and you think it's because of your diabetes you can appeal. People with diabetes are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act, making it unlawful to discriminate against an individual on medical grounds. To find out more about your rights visit the Diabetes Uk website at www.diabetes.org.uk/dcn or contact the Disability Rights Commission www.drc.org.uk or call 08457 622 633.

Other useful contacts:



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