Many people with epilepsy can work and are gainfully employed. There are also many who struggle to get a job. Having epilepsy does not necessarily stop you from doing the job you want, but some issues may arise which can affect work or work choices.
If your seizures are not well controlled, then finding a job may become more difficult particularly if there are safety issues concerned. Also, difficulties may arise if there are misconceptions about epilepsy, or if a job is unsafe for someone who has seizures or those around them.
Sometimes the decision for people with epilepsy to seek or not seek certain jobs is influenced by:
- The type of seizures you have and how often they occur
- Time of day seizures typically occur
- Whether the seizures are controlled by medication
- The potential risks if a seizure happens in the workplace. For instance, work which involve heights, water, heavy or unguarded machinery, firearms or driving has a high risk of injury.
Are there jobs I can’t do?
Not all jobs are suitable for someone with epilepsy, but employment is possible if your safety and the safety of colleagues and the community are not at risk.
An employer cannot legally refuse to give you a job because you have epilepsy. However, they need to consider your epilepsy, and what the job involves, to ensure you and your colleagues will be safe at work.
If you are not successful at getting a particular job, reassess the job requirements and your skills, look at ways you can improve your qualifications and resume, ask for feedback from the employer to help improve your chances for future interviews. It is a competitive job market and epilepsy may not be a factor in not being offered the job.
There are some jobs however, that are not suitable for people with epilepsy. Even with good seizure control, someone with epilepsy will not be able to gain employment as:
- A pilot
- A deckhand or fisherman
- A commercial driver such as a bus, train or truck driver
- Jobs involving heavy machinery, water, high voltage electricity or heights
The Australian Defence Force and the state Police Forces have a medical process and medical examination for entry.
It is best to contact the Police force in your state or Australian Federal Police to discuss if it is possible. You will need to have your drivers license for Police recruitment.
For more about the medical process for Defence Recruiting click here
Driving and Employment
A person with epilepsy can be employed in a job that involves driving as long as they meet the medical criteria for driving and hold a current Australian driver’s licence.
Strict criteria are applied to those people wanting to drive large vehicles such as trucks, buses, commercial or emergency vehicles.
For further information about the criteria for obtaining a licence call Epilepsy Action Australia or download the Driving factsheet.
The National Transport Commission has a booklet called Assessing Fitness to Drive which covers medical conditions. Epilepsy and seizures starts on page 83.
Telling an Employer
The workplace is where people spend a lot of time, and work is central to our financial security. So the worry about discrimination at work is a genuine concern when disclosing epilepsy to an employer.
The decisions you make about telling people at work depends on how your epilepsy, or any other medical condition or disability, may affect the safety of you and your colleagues. Critical factors include the requirements of the job, the workplace environment, whether you work alone or with a group and whether you will need specific accommodation made for your epilepsy.
Legally in Australia you are under no obligation to disclose your condition unless it affects your ability to meet the inherent requirements of your job.
Unfortunately, there are circumstances when someone may lose their job because of their seizures, particularly if there are safety concerns. An employer has a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for all employees as per the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WH&S).
Where there is serious conflict between the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and WH&S laws, WH&S law may override the DDA.
Even so, it can be useful to discuss epilepsy with a potential or current employer.
For an employer to be able to fulfill their obligations under the WH&S Act, they need to be aware of any condition that may require them to change working practices or environment to improve safety. Disclosing can also allow the employer to make reasonable adjustments if you need any.
If you do choose to disclose that you have epilepsy, your employer is required by law to keep the information confidential and must obtain your written consent to share the information with others.
For more information and tips about disclosure, see the EAA Factsheet – Disclosure
If seizures are likely to hinder your performance at work, an employer is expected where possible to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace. This can include things like changing work hours or changing your role within the organisation until your seizures are controlled.
If you feel your job is in jeopardy it is important to seek professional advice before agreeing to any new conditions.
Being aware of your rights and responsibilities as a potential or current employee with epilepsy
Research has shown that people with epilepsy generally have average or less sick days than people without epilepsy – and have good job loyalty records.
Many people with epilepsy have good seizure control with medication and therefore do not have seizures, or have infrequent seizures. For people experiencing seizures, the amount of time taken off work will vary from person to person.
Can working with computers trigger a seizure?
Most computer monitors do not tend to provoke seizures.
For most people with epilepsy, working with computers does not increase or trigger seizures. However, when people have photosensitive epilepsy, seizures can be triggered by a flashing or flickering light or change in geometric shapes and patterns. This is uncommon and only occurs in approximately 5% of people with epilepsy.
People with this type of epilepsy may be sensitive to computers, but most monitors flicker at a frequency that does not tend to provoke seizures.
Laptop computers, which have a liquid crystal display, are even less likely to trigger seizures. It is sometimes the content on the screen that can affect someone with photosensitive epilepsy.
If someone is sensitive to computer screens, it is suggested to lower the brightness on the monitor and sit at least 60cm away from the computer. Also when using computers, visual tiredness can occur. Taking frequent breaks from the computer screen is good for anyone using a computer, not just people with epilepsy.
Can I get financial assistance for transport?
The State and Federal government provides a mobility allowance through Centrelink.
The Taxi Subsidy Scheme programs and eligibility differ from state to state. However, all offer significant discounts for taxi fares. Contact the transport authority for information and application forms. A letter from a neurologist is required.
Concession public transport travel cards are available from Centrelink for eligible customers.
These forms of assistance may be difficult to obtain without a physical disability.
Employment agencies that can help find employment
Disability Employment Australia where you can search for local providers to help you source work if you have an illness or disability
Who can help with gaining more skills?
Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres can help find a local employment agency. Call 1800 052 222
Local colleges like TAFE offer a wide range of adult education courses.
Centrelink can assist in job education and training. Call 136 150
For more information: