010 110 0227
Mon - Fri 09:00-17:00

Is Diabetes Considered a Disability and How Can HR Create Awareness in the Workplace?

Alarming statistics indicate that diabetes is rapidly increasing globally. Approximately 422 million people globally have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common under adults, and four times as many people have Type 2 diabetes today compared to 36 years ago, according to The WHO. They also state that 1.6 million people die as a result of diabetes each year.

What is Diabetes?

This is a long term disease where the body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin resulting in increased elevated blood sugar levels. According to The WHO if not managed properly over time this disease can cause serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Is Diabetes considered a disability in the SA Workplace?

For any chronic illness to be considered a disability, it needs to fall under the guidelines and the definition of the Employment Equity Act. The Act defines people with disabilities as “those who have a long-term or recurring physical, including sensory, or mental impairment, which substantially limits their prospect of entry into or advancement in employment.”

Specialists say that when it comes to classifying a chronic illness as a disability, it becomes quite difficult because people are impacted and experience conditions differently. Chronic illnesses, such as TB, HIV, cancer and diabetes are only recognised as disabilities when they start limiting your ability to perform the requirements of you position in the workplace.

Therefore, we can conclude that because most people can deal with diabetes through following the correct diet and taking the proper medication it is not considered a disability until it truly limits your abilities. There are severe instances where strokes or a loss of a limb etc. due to poorly managed diabetes, causes impairment which then substantially limits the person to perform their job duties. In these cases, diabetes can be classified as a disability.

We strongly recommend that employees consult their HR Department or Manager if they are not sure what is classified as a disability.

How Can HR Create Awareness of Diabetes in the Workplace?

The IDF (International Diabetes Federation) released a report in 2019 indicating that South Africa now has the highest proportion of adult diabetics in Africa as well as the highest number of people who have succumbed due to this disease. This is obviously impacting our workforce. Employees need to be educated and made aware of this disease in order to combat its devastating impact on the wellness of staff and business.

It’s time that HR Departments help their employees to catch a wake-up call when it comes to diabetes.

5 Easy Ways to Promote Diabetes Awareness in the Workplace:

1.                  Information and Education.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. This is the ideal time to provide as much information by means of putting up informative posters, handing out infographic flyers, brochures, and setting up educational talks which employees can attend on how to properly detect diabetes early on, how to prevent it and how to manage it.

2.                  Access to testing as part of the company’s wellness programme.

Give your employees access to quick screening and testing at the office by having a nurse with test kits available for a day or so where employees can ask questions and get themselves tested. Early detection will help to combat this disease.

3.                  Create an event or fundraiser at the office.

Create an event or fundraiser at the office to urge your employees to raise money for the research and education efforts surrounding diabetes. Something like a team building cooking class including healthy diabetic friendly recipes is an ideal way to do some team building and give tips on healthy cooking. Socialising and helping others naturally inspire employees which in turn creates indirect awareness.

4.                  Change to a healthier cafeteria menu or promote healthy eating habits at the office.

By supplying healthy well balanced office meals or meal options in someone’s place of work, will boost healthy eating habits, reducing risks of diabetes.

5.                  Get active at the office.

Include activity sessions where teams can be active together. Your company does not necessarily have to have an inhouse gym for you to do this. You as HR department can give away free gym passes, organise a fitness class at the office or arrange lunchtime office walks. You can even invite local fitness companies to showcase their services at the office.

These ideas can all form part of your wellness programme to promote physical and mental health among your staff.

We live in a diverse country where there is a lot of stress, unhealthy habits, illnesses etc. A diverse and healthy workplace, when managed correctly, can drive any company’s success. Adapting and making even the smallest changes, can promote, not only your company’s inclusive and fair culture when dealing with disability, but also promote workplace wellness.

The Mindspa Institute has various courses to promote and create awareness for wellness at the office.