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Work and type 1 diabetes

Having type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to stop you having a fulfilling career. Read on for information about different types of jobs, how to manage your type 1 at work and the laws in place to protect you from discrimination.
Content last reviewed and updated: 13.03.2024

A carpenter on a building site, working with type 1 diabetes

What jobs can I do?

People who have type 1 diabetes do all kinds of jobs and have fulfilling careers, so it needn’t hold you back.

Under the Equality Act (scroll down for more information on the Equality Act) only the Armed Forces has a blanket ban on employing people with type 1. Some emergency services may also refuse to employ people with type 1 but this decision is made by the service itself.

There are some types of jobs where you might have to think about how to do them with type 1, but this needn’t stop you doing them.

Shift work

Shift work can make managing type 1 difficult because of irregular meals and sleep patterns. Speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team to come up with a plan and talk to your employers about adjustments they can make to help you manage your type 1.

Driving jobs

If you want to get a job that involves driving a car or heavy vehicle you will need to follow the rules about driving with type 1.

Finding a job that suits your health

You might find some jobs more suitable than others in terms of your overall health.

For example, if you have complications with your foot health, a job where you need to wear heavy boots and stand all day might not be ideal.

Speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team if you have concerns about any risks to your health in the workplace.

Rights and employment law

The Equality Act 2010 protects people with type 1 diabetes from discrimination at work.

Is type 1 diabetes classed a disability in the workplace?

Type 1 diabetes is classed as an ‘unseen disability’ under The Equality Act 2010. Although you may not feel that it’s a disability, this classification can help to protect you against discrimination at work. In Northern Ireland, employees are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

What are your rights under the law?

Under the Equality Act, employers should not put someone with a disability in a situation where they’re disadvantaged as a result of their disability. For example, if you have to take a short break from a meeting to treat a hypo, you should not have missed out on decisions or opportunities that may affect your work or career.

The Equality Act requires employers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for employees and job applicants with disabilities to stop discrimination taking place.

Examples of reasonable adjustments that your employer can make are:

  • Flexibility to step away briefly from your role to treat or manage your type 1
  • Flexibility over lunch and tea breaks if you work shifts
  • Providing a private place to inject (this should not be a toilet)
  • Offering ‘sharps’ boxes in the workplace
  • Providing well stocked hypo kits
  • In some cases, changing duties or a transfer to an alternative role

Discrimination at work

If you feel that you are facing discrimination at work because of your type 1 diabetes, speak to your manager or HR department. If you want to take things further, take a look at our useful links section for organisations that can help.

Managing type 1 diabetes at work

How you manage your type 1 at work depends on the kind of work you do. For example, if you work in an office, you might be able to step away from your desk when you need to check your blood glucose levels or take insulin.

If you work in sectors like retail, construction or healthcare, you might need more support from your employer to find time and space for you to manage your type 1.

Do you need to tell your employer that you have type 1 diabetes?

You don’t have to tell your employer about your health unless it’s relevant to the tasks you do in your job. There is no obligation for you to tell your employer about your type 1 diabetes.

If you do tell your employer, laws and regulations are in place to stop them telling anyone else.

Here are some reasons you might want to tell your employer you have type 1:

  • You might need to ask for adjustments in the workplace. For example, if you work all day on a shop floor, you might need to ask them to find a space for you to check your blood glucose levels or take insulin
  • If your circumstances change which might have an impact on how you manage your type 1, for example if you become pregnant
  • If you get ill at work, it might be helpful for your employer to know you have type 1. They can use this information to help you or give it to healthcare professionals in an emergency, for example if you have a severe hypo

If you decide to tell your employer, sharing our Advice for Employers toolkit with them may help them understand how your type 1 may affect you in the workplace.

Should you tell your colleagues about your type 1 diabetes?

Whether you tell your work colleagues about your type 1 is completely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.

Not everyone knows what having type 1 is like, so they might ask questions or come with their own misconceptions (often confusing it with type 2 diabetes), so you might need to give them some information about the condition.

Showing them what to do if you have a hypo might be beneficial, so that they can help you if you need it.

Time off work to manage type 1 diabetes

Appointments and checkups

Your employer should let you take time off work to go for appointments and check-ups. However, the law doesn’t say that this time off has to be paid. Many organisations do offer paid time off for medical appointments so check with your employer.

Time off work is covered by the Equality Act 2010 so you should not be disadvantaged by taking time away from work to manage your type 1. For example, if your bonus is linked to not going over a certain number of days of absence, your employer should take steps to factor in any days you’ve been away as a result of type 1 diabetes.

Can you lose your job if you take too much time off work?

If your time off work can be reasonably accommodated by your employer, then you shouldn’t be at risk of losing your job. However, if time away is affecting the organisation in a way that can’t be sustained, it may be deemed fair grounds for dismissal.

It’s helpful to keep good communication with your employer about how type 1 affects you so they can understand why you might have more absences than you’d both like. Be aware of the company policies and how they might affect you.


It is up to your employer whether they give you time off from work to attend a type 1 management course like DAFNE or BERTIE Diabetes. They may allow you to take this as sick leave (paid or unpaid) or you may have to take it out of your annual leave allowance.

Some courses, like DAFNE can send a letter to your employer explaining why the course is important and how it might help your wellbeing in the long term.

Read our Workplace Toolkit for Employees more information and support

Applying for a job when you have type 1

A woman talking to another woman at a job interview

A potential employer isn’t normally allowed to ask you about your health or disability in an interview unless it’s strictly relevant to the tasks required of the job.

It’s your choice whether you tell your prospective employers or interviewers. Although they shouldn’t, some employers may be reluctant to employ someone with type 1 due to misconceptions about the condition, for example that people with type 1 aren’t safe to drive.

However, if you do share that you have type 1, you can highlight all the skills that managing type 1 gives you. People with type 1 practice self-discipline and develop good organisational skills through managing the condition every day.

Getting support if you are caring for someone with type 1

If you’re a parent or guardian of a child with type 1, you may need extra support in the workplace. For example, many parents or guardians of children with type 1 experience broken sleep which can affect them the next day.

Parents, and anyone who combines work with caring for dependents, have some specific rights protected by law. These include various types of leave and the right to be considered for flexible working. There are other rights such as time off for dependents and parental leave.

Working and caring for someone at the same time can be challenging. Get as much support from your employer as you can. It may help to share our workplace toolkit for employers with them.

How employers can support staff with type 1 diabetes

If you’ve got staff who have type 1 diabetes, it’s important to know about the condition and how it may affect them. You may need to make adjustments to make it easier for them to manage type 1 in the workplace, although many people affected by type 1 diabetes cope perfectly well in the workplace without adjustments being made.

Read our workplace toolkit for employers to get more information and support.

Useful links

Useful resources

Read more
Front cover of workplace toolkit for employees

Workplace Toolkit for Employees

Type 1 diabetes is no barrier to a successful, rewarding and fulfilling career. Download our guide to help you navigate employment with type 1 diabetes and how to get the support you need at work.

Read more
Front cover of workplace toolkit for employers

Workplace Toolkit for Employers

Advice for employers and line managers on supporting employees living with type 1 diabetes or who care for a relative with type 1 diabetes.

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