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Top 10 Workplace Accommodations for People Living with Diabetes

TLDR; With the growing prevalence of diabetes, it is more important than ever to ensure that people with this condition are fully supported in the workplace. By implementing the top 10 workplace accommodations, employers can help employees with diabetes maintain their health and productivity while fulfilling their responsibilities under the ADA and other relevant laws.

Team Disclo
October 3, 2023

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In the U.S., the American Diabetes Association reports that over 34 million Americans have some form of diabetes, whether it's type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes. This medical condition can lead to various health complications, including heart disease, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy. As such, effective diabetes management is crucial, especially in the work environment.

This article will outline the top 10 workplace accommodations for people with diabetes, as recommended by healthcare providers and governed by federal law.

1. Flexible Working Hours and Breaks

Flexible working hours can be a game-changer for employees with diabetes. This accommodation allows them to adjust their work schedule to meet the demands of their condition, such as attending medical appointments, taking medications, or checking blood glucose levels.

Allowing employees with diabetes to take more flexible breaks can help them manage their condition more effectively. These breaks provide opportunities for them to monitor their blood sugar levels, take necessary medications, or have a snack if needed.

2. Access to Healthy Food Options

Providing access to healthy food options in the workplace can make it easier for employees with diabetes to maintain a balanced diet. For instance, ensuring vending machines are stocked with healthy snacks, such as nuts, whole-grain crackers, yogurt and fresh fruits, can contribute to better diabetes management.

Additionally, companies can partner with local food vendors to offer diabetes-friendly meal choices or collaborate with nutritionists to develop a list of suitable options available in any onsite cafeterias.

Resource: The American Diabetes Association’s comprehensive list of healthy food options

3. Ergonomic Workstations

An ergonomic workstation can reduce the risk of injury and promote overall health for all employees, including those with diabetes. Ergonomic chairs, desks, and accessories can help alleviate pressure on joints, reduce muscle strain, and improve circulation, which is particularly important for people with diabetes.

For those experiencing specific diabetes-related complications such as diabetic retinopathy, modifications like magnified computer screens can make a significant difference.

4. Private Place

Employees with diabetes, and other health conditions, often require various supplies to manage their condition and need a place to both store supplies and a place to check their glucose levels while in the workplace. Some employers have established dedicated wellness rooms or areas where employees can store diabetes supplies and have a private space to check their blood sugar levels or administer insulin. Employers can also provide a dedicated storage or refrigerator where employees can keep supplies and snacks.

By ensuring that employees with diabetes have access to a private place to care for themselves, employers can help create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

5. Leave for Medical Appointments

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws, employers must allow employees with serious health conditions, such as diabetes, to take time off for medical appointments, education, or managing hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia episodes. This can be covered under medical leave or sick days.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons, which can include diabetes-related complications.

6. Support for Mental Health

Living with diabetes can be emotionally taxing, and mental health support is essential for overall well-being. Encourage employees to access counseling services or consider offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that addresses mental health concerns.

7. Accessible Parking Spaces

For employees with diabetes who have mobility issues, accessible parking spaces can be an essential accommodation. Providing designated parking spaces near the entrance of the building can help reduce the physical strain on employees with diabetes.

8. Physical Activity Opportunities

Encouraging physical activity is important for overall health, and it is especially beneficial for employees with diabetes. Offering opportunities and programs that encourage physical activity, such as on-site fitness facilities, discounted gym memberships, and wellness equipment reimbursements can help employees manage their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

9. Diabetes Education and Training

Educating employees about diabetes can help create a more supportive and inclusive workplace. Offering training sessions or workshops on diabetes management can increase awareness and understanding among coworkers and supervisors, leading to a more accommodating work environment.

10. Job Reassignment

If a qualified employee with a disability can no longer perform the essential functions of their job, even with reasonable accommodations, an employer is required under the ADA to provide the accommodation of reassignment to a vacant position. The employee must be qualified for the new position, and the employer is not required to create a new position, promote the employee, or displace other employees to accommodate the reassignment. Reassignment is often referred to as "the accommodation of last resort.”

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are any modifications or adjustments to a job or work environment that enable qualified applicants or employees with disabilities to participate in the application process or perform the essential job functions of their job.

People with disabilities and other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is regulated and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on a person's impairment or medical condition and require reasonable accommodations unless they cause an undue hardship to the employer.

Additionally, under the ADA, medical information must remain confidential unless specific exceptions apply and employers cannot require a medical examination unless it's related to the job and necessary for the business.

Employers are encouraged to refer to the ADA's fact sheet and guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more detailed information on accommodating employees with diabetes.

Read More: Navigating Reasonable Accommodations: Rights, Responsibilities, and Practical Solutions Under the ADA

Additional Guidance

The American Diabetes Association has valuable resources dedicated to understanding the different types of diabetes and their potential impact on major life activities. They also provide strategies for effectively managing diabetes, from maintaining blood sugar levels to dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

It is important to remember that each person's diabetes need may differ. Some may need additional sick days, while others may need a private place for insulin injections or blood glucose level monitoring. It is essential to have an open and respectful conversation with the employee to identify the best accommodations for them.

Moreover, diabetes management can also positively affect mental health. Studies show that employees who feel supported in their health conditions are less likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression.

Conclusion

Fostering a supportive work environment, and providing workplace accommodations, for individuals with diabetes promotes a healthier, more inclusive, and productive workplace. As we continue to see advancements in healthcare, the management of diabetes at work will become more streamlined, benefiting both employees and employers alike.

With the growing prevalence of diabetes, it is more important than ever to ensure that people with this condition are fully supported in the workplace. By implementing the top 10 workplace accommodations, employers can help employees with diabetes maintain their health and productivity while fulfilling their responsibilities under the ADA and other relevant laws.

Additional Resources

Disclo has prepared many helpful articles and resources for employers and employees to reference. A few that may be of interest:

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In the U.S., the American Diabetes Association reports that over 34 million Americans have some form of diabetes, whether it's type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes. This medical condition can lead to various health complications, including heart disease, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy. As such, effective diabetes management is crucial, especially in the work environment.

This article will outline the top 10 workplace accommodations for people with diabetes, as recommended by healthcare providers and governed by federal law.

1. Flexible Working Hours and Breaks

Flexible working hours can be a game-changer for employees with diabetes. This accommodation allows them to adjust their work schedule to meet the demands of their condition, such as attending medical appointments, taking medications, or checking blood glucose levels.

Allowing employees with diabetes to take more flexible breaks can help them manage their condition more effectively. These breaks provide opportunities for them to monitor their blood sugar levels, take necessary medications, or have a snack if needed.

2. Access to Healthy Food Options

Providing access to healthy food options in the workplace can make it easier for employees with diabetes to maintain a balanced diet. For instance, ensuring vending machines are stocked with healthy snacks, such as nuts, whole-grain crackers, yogurt and fresh fruits, can contribute to better diabetes management.

Additionally, companies can partner with local food vendors to offer diabetes-friendly meal choices or collaborate with nutritionists to develop a list of suitable options available in any onsite cafeterias.

Resource: The American Diabetes Association’s comprehensive list of healthy food options

3. Ergonomic Workstations

An ergonomic workstation can reduce the risk of injury and promote overall health for all employees, including those with diabetes. Ergonomic chairs, desks, and accessories can help alleviate pressure on joints, reduce muscle strain, and improve circulation, which is particularly important for people with diabetes.

For those experiencing specific diabetes-related complications such as diabetic retinopathy, modifications like magnified computer screens can make a significant difference.

4. Private Place

Employees with diabetes, and other health conditions, often require various supplies to manage their condition and need a place to both store supplies and a place to check their glucose levels while in the workplace. Some employers have established dedicated wellness rooms or areas where employees can store diabetes supplies and have a private space to check their blood sugar levels or administer insulin. Employers can also provide a dedicated storage or refrigerator where employees can keep supplies and snacks.

By ensuring that employees with diabetes have access to a private place to care for themselves, employers can help create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

5. Leave for Medical Appointments

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws, employers must allow employees with serious health conditions, such as diabetes, to take time off for medical appointments, education, or managing hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia episodes. This can be covered under medical leave or sick days.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons, which can include diabetes-related complications.

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6. Support for Mental Health

Living with diabetes can be emotionally taxing, and mental health support is essential for overall well-being. Encourage employees to access counseling services or consider offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that addresses mental health concerns.

7. Accessible Parking Spaces

For employees with diabetes who have mobility issues, accessible parking spaces can be an essential accommodation. Providing designated parking spaces near the entrance of the building can help reduce the physical strain on employees with diabetes.

8. Physical Activity Opportunities

Encouraging physical activity is important for overall health, and it is especially beneficial for employees with diabetes. Offering opportunities and programs that encourage physical activity, such as on-site fitness facilities, discounted gym memberships, and wellness equipment reimbursements can help employees manage their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

9. Diabetes Education and Training

Educating employees about diabetes can help create a more supportive and inclusive workplace. Offering training sessions or workshops on diabetes management can increase awareness and understanding among coworkers and supervisors, leading to a more accommodating work environment.

10. Job Reassignment

If a qualified employee with a disability can no longer perform the essential functions of their job, even with reasonable accommodations, an employer is required under the ADA to provide the accommodation of reassignment to a vacant position. The employee must be qualified for the new position, and the employer is not required to create a new position, promote the employee, or displace other employees to accommodate the reassignment. Reassignment is often referred to as "the accommodation of last resort.”

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are any modifications or adjustments to a job or work environment that enable qualified applicants or employees with disabilities to participate in the application process or perform the essential job functions of their job.

People with disabilities and other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is regulated and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on a person's impairment or medical condition and require reasonable accommodations unless they cause an undue hardship to the employer.

Additionally, under the ADA, medical information must remain confidential unless specific exceptions apply and employers cannot require a medical examination unless it's related to the job and necessary for the business.

Employers are encouraged to refer to the ADA's fact sheet and guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more detailed information on accommodating employees with diabetes.

Read More: Navigating Reasonable Accommodations: Rights, Responsibilities, and Practical Solutions Under the ADA

Additional Guidance

The American Diabetes Association has valuable resources dedicated to understanding the different types of diabetes and their potential impact on major life activities. They also provide strategies for effectively managing diabetes, from maintaining blood sugar levels to dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

It is important to remember that each person's diabetes need may differ. Some may need additional sick days, while others may need a private place for insulin injections or blood glucose level monitoring. It is essential to have an open and respectful conversation with the employee to identify the best accommodations for them.

Moreover, diabetes management can also positively affect mental health. Studies show that employees who feel supported in their health conditions are less likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression.

Conclusion

Fostering a supportive work environment, and providing workplace accommodations, for individuals with diabetes promotes a healthier, more inclusive, and productive workplace. As we continue to see advancements in healthcare, the management of diabetes at work will become more streamlined, benefiting both employees and employers alike.

With the growing prevalence of diabetes, it is more important than ever to ensure that people with this condition are fully supported in the workplace. By implementing the top 10 workplace accommodations, employers can help employees with diabetes maintain their health and productivity while fulfilling their responsibilities under the ADA and other relevant laws.

Additional Resources

Disclo has prepared many helpful articles and resources for employers and employees to reference. A few that may be of interest:

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