Equipsme HR Guide – Diabetes

Equipsme HR Guide Diabetes

Diabetes is on the rise in the UK, affecting  5 million1 people, with a further 7 million2 estimated to have prediabetes – abnormal blood sugar levels that mean they have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition that can cause significant health problems. People who have diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, or can’t use the insulin they do produce. Without insulin, too much blood sugar stays in the bloodstream. Over time that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, sight loss, and kidney problems.

It can also affect everyday life and work - for instance impacting concentration and focus, or causing issues with vision or mobility.

Even those who are in good control of their condition can find balancing their insulin and blood sugar difficult. That’s partly because it can be impacted by lots of different things – including types of food and drink, mealtimes, exercise levels, stress levels, or illness.

Getting the balance wrong can lead to something called hypoglycaemia, known as a ‘hypo’ - where someone’s blood sugar drops too low and they lose consciousness. Meanwhile,  hyperglycaemia, when blood sugar gets too high, is also a medical emergency.

It’s very likely there are people with diabetes in your workplace. Organisations need to have a clear strategy for how they’re going to support people with diabetes, and how they’re going to help those at risk avoid developing the disease in the future.

Diabetes in numbers

  • 1 in 12 people2 in the UK are estimated to have diabetes
  • 1 in 3 are thought to be pre-diabetic3 – in danger of developing diabetes in the future
  • 50% - the number of people with pre-diabetes4 who can avoid developing type 2 diabetes if they change their lifestyle
  • 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, 8% have type 1 diabetes5
  • Every week, diabetes leads to 184 amputations, more than 930 strokes, 660 heart attacks and 2,990 cases of heart failure6
  • £10 bn – the estimated cost of diabetes to the NHS7, around 10% of its entire budget
  • £13.9 billion – the estimated indirect cost of diabetes in terms of work loss, increased death and illness, and the need for informal care8
  • 2-3 times higher – sickness absence rates for those with diabetes vs those without diabetes9
  • Per 1,000 employees, 82 will have diabetes, and 25 will be at risk of a ‘hypo’ event – translating to 49 mild to moderate and 2-5 severe events each month10
  • 30% of those experiencing a non-severe hypo were late to work and 21% left work early, 36% missed a deadline or had to reschedule meetings, 28% avoided driving11
  • 16% of people with diabetes felt they had been discriminated against by their employer because of their diabetes12
  • 59% of employers don’t know their legal responsibilities to an employee with diabetes, and 58% don’t implement and review risk assessments for workers with diabetes13

What does the law say about diabetes?

Diabetes is recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which means businesses have a duty of care for employees with diabetes, and must make reasonable adjustments to help them do their jobs.

How businesses can support people with diabetes

1. Update your policy

Organisations should formalise their diabetes response in an official policy, and make sure it’s up to date. It should include amends to processes and procedures, for instance creating a safe, hygienic space for people to store and take their insulin, or mandating a blood-sugar check before a diabetic member of staff performs key duties, for instance driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

2. Embed reasonable adjustments

Beyond your policy, everyday reasonable adjustments should be made for diabetic staff – for instance allowing people to take breaks or eat/drink at their workstations if they need to regulate their blood sugar, and allowing extra time out to attend medical appointments.

3. Provide regular training

Reasonable adjustments only work if line managers have the appropriate training, and the confidence in implement them. Likewise, it’s worth training your wider staff about diabetes, including around symptoms to look out for, and what to do if there’s a medical emergency.

How business can support people with pre-diabetes

1. Encourage healthy eating and movement

Maintaining a healthy weight and cutting down on sugar are key in helping people manage and avoid Type 2 diabetes. Workplaces can support this by protecting lunch hours, as well as lunch spaces and kitchens, so people have the opportunity to prepare, store, and eat healthily. Snack machines should include healthy options, and movement should be encouraged – for instance with a culture that encourages desk-to-desk visits rather than emails, standing meetings, and regular breaks. Initiatives like step challenges or health days can also drive new habits and better awareness.

2. Make sure people know what to look out for

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can come on gradually and over time, and can be difficult to put the picture together. Helping people understand what to look out for is vital. That includes things like increased urination (particularly at night), increased thirst, general fatigue, slow healing cuts or injuries, and tingling hand and feet.

3. Encourage people to use their Equipsme plan

Equipsme plans come with 24/7 GP access, which can provide convenient, swift appointments, and a vital second opinion service. Plan level 1 comes with a Thriva home health check for diabetes and all other plans include a discount voucher towards a Thriva home health check that include an HbA1c test which can help people identify blood sugar abnormalities and spot conditions like pre-diabetes and diabetes early.


Other resources

NHS Diabetes
Diabetes UK


(1)  www.diabetes.org.uk/about-us/news-and-views/number-people-living-diabetes-uk-tops-5-million-first-time 
(2) (3) (10) (11)  www.britsafe.org/safety-management/2022/diabetes-at-work-time-for-action
(4)  www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/types-of-diabetes/type-2/prediabetes
(5) (6) (7) www.diabetes.org.uk/about-us/about-the-charity/our-strategy/statistics
(8) www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/features/diabetes-nhs/
(9) https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-386
(12) www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41970161
(13) www.supplychainschool.co.uk/the-impact-of-diabetes-on-individuals-and-the-workplace/

All our information is desk-based research from credible sources only, including the NHS and medical/disease charities.


Date created: May 2024