NEW research has prompted a campaign to help more people with epilepsy in Scotland find and retain secure work, after a survey found they face a significant employment gap.

Research commissioned by the charity Epilepsy Scotland found 81.3% of the non-disabled population in Scotland is in employment – but for people with the neurological condition, the figure is only 36.9%.

A further survey found 39% of respondents had faced discrimination because of their epilepsy.

Research conducted by the Scottish Centre for Employment Research revealed significant gaps in data and understanding of the impact of epilepsy on employment in Scotland.

Although attitudes have improved, the research found employers still have poor awareness of the condition, and often have misconceptions around the abilities of people with epilepsy.

Prevailing myths, stereotyping, and stigma associated with epilepsy may also deter people with epilepsy from disclosing their condition to their employer and benefitting from reasonable adjustments.

The research found that data from the Office for National Statistics Annual Population Survey for the UK for 2021 showed that people with epilepsy are among the least likely groups among those with disabilities to be in work.

Additionally, people with epilepsy who are in employment “are more likely to be employed in low-skilled and manual occupations and many are unable to fulfil their employment potential in aligning employment with their level of qualification”.

Epilepsy Scotland also surveyed 68 people with epilepsy to understand experiences of employment and found that 73% of respondents felt their epilepsy had impacted their career choices, while 39% of respondents felt they had experienced discrimination in the workplace.

The research and survey make clear the real need to address the issues people with epilepsy are facing in employment.

Epilepsy Scotland’s new campaign aims to increase awareness of epilepsy in the workplace and provide employers with more information to better support people with epilepsy.

It was launched at a meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy at Holyrood, which was chaired by

Alasdair Allan MSP, and hosted discussion between organisations with an interest in epilepsy and the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, Richard Lochhead.

Throughout the campaign, the national charity will be sharing advice, information, and the experiences of people with epilepsy.

Professor Patricia Findlay, director of the Scottish Centre for Employment Research, said: “The disability employment gap for people with epilepsy remains stubbornly high and an understanding of how to address this disadvantage remains limited and under-researched.

“We need better data and insight, and a bold agenda across policy-makers, employers, trade unions and campaigning organisations that grasps the nettle of why people with epilepsy fare so poorly in employment and, crucially, commits to practical actions

aimed at changing that experience.”

Lesslie Young, chief executive at Epilepsy Scotland, said: “Any employer who sees epilepsy, and/or the reasonable adjustment that may need to be made, as a barrier, or too big a challenge, is at the very least being short-sighted. They may in fact be missing the opportunity to employ the hardest working, most resilient person they have met or had the chance to employ.”

The campaign can be followed on Epilepsy Scotland’s social media and website. You can also find its Occupational Health Guide on its website or by getting in touch with its free confidential helpline. The guide outlines the rights of people with epilepsy in the workplace and provides advice for employees and employers alike.