Migraine at work -Questions

Frequently asked questions

Is migraine a disability? What rights do I have at work?

It may be – the answer depends upon your own individual circumstances. As a migraine sufferer, you are likely to be classified as disabled if your migraine headaches have a long term and substantial effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This will usually mean that you have suffered from migraine for 12 months or more and your migraine attacks prevent you from doing normal everyday tasks such as attending work, concentrating on certain tasks and driving.

Whether or not you have a disability will normally depend on the frequency and impact of your migraine attacks. If you suffer from a migraine attack once a year, you are much less likely to be classified as disabled than someone who suffers from weekly attacks. The key is the impact of the attacks on your everyday life.

If you are classified as disabled, your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you because you suffer from migraine. In addition, your employer has a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to make sure you are not disadvantaged due to your migraine attacks. This could include allowing you reasonable time off for medical appointments or allowing you to sit in a dark room if you feel an attack coming on. You can also be protected from discrimination even if you are not technically classified as “disabled” but someone (such as your employer) perceives that you are disabled due to the severity or frequency of your migraine attacks.

Answer kindly provided by David Cubitt, Trustee of The Migraine Trust and a Partner at Osborne Clarke.

What to do when problems occur

If you experience problems at work due to your migraine, it is important that you try to deal with issues as early as possible to prevent them from worsening.  Try to deal with the problem informally in the first instance, this may involve speaking to your manager, HR or a colleague depending   on the nature of the issue. If you have tried to raise the issue informally but are unhappy with the outcome or the problem is continuing you may wish to register a written formal complaint. Your employer should have a written grievance policy and you should read this to know your rights before proceeding. When should I disclose that I have migraine?

An employer is not allowed by law to ask you questions about your health until a job offer has been made. The law prevents unlawful discrimination against people with a disability. An employer is only allowed to ask this if pre-employment questions need to be asked to establish whether the applicant can fulfill a function essential to the job role. For example, when recruiting for a job as a warehouse operative role that requires heavy lifting an employer can ask questions to establish whether a candidate’s health will allow them to fulfill this task.

Employers are allowed to ask applicants if they require any adjustments to the interview process to prevent them from being put at a substantial disadvantage due to their migraine symptoms. For instance, a migraine sufferer may require a glare filter screen to complete a computer based test during the interview.

Can my employer dismiss me due to my migraine?

If your employer is aware that your migraine condition is putting you at a substantial disadvantage at work because of its policies/procedures or a physical feature then your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to remove such disadvantage to help you remain in your job. If your employer fails to make the adjustment and dismisses you because of your migraine this may result to an unfair treatment.

More information is available in  migrainetrust 



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