Resources for Parents

Type 1 diabetes and working: tips for job-hunting

October 05, 2023

So the day has arrived when you’re ready to find your first job, or you’re ready to a find a new role. What’s next?

The start of a new job is a big milestone, and you naturally want everything to go smoothly. With some extra planning and communication you can be safe, happy and successful at work while living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Things to consider while job hunting with T1D

When looking for a job, you might like to consider the type of work you feel comfortable doing, the hours that might suit you and other aspects of your lifestyle. 

Legally, for most jobs, you won’t need to tell your potential employer about your T1D: disclosure is a personal choice. Some people choose to tell the potential employer during the application process, or others wait until starting in the role. Still others might not ever disclose. 

There are a few exceptions, and you must tell your potential employer about your T1D if:

  • you would like reasonable adjustments made to your working conditions
  • any medication side effects can impact your work
  • you’ll be driving a company car
  • you’ll be operating heavy machinery or working in risky situations
  • WorkCover or other insurance requires disclosure.

Either way, don’t feel afraid of a potential employer knowing about your T1D. Managing a chronic illness takes thoughtfulness and maturity, two sought-after qualities in any workplace. And having more people know about your diagnosis means you’ll have more people looking out for you if you need help. 

Your T1D or any other medical condition should not be a barrier to you securing a job. If you feel you’re being discriminated against, seek advice from Fair Work Australia. Learn more about what is (and what isn’t) considered discrimination at Diabetes Australia.

After securing the position 

Once you’ve gotten a job, you’ll need to put some thought into managing your T1D at work. Speak to your healthcare team for personalised tips and advice. 

If your employer knows about your T1D it’s best to give them a rundown of what’s involved in managing T1D in a typical day, and what to do in an emergency.  

Other important things to consider are: 

  • having a well-stocked hypo kit easily accessible at all times
  • the ability to take time out to treat low blood glucose levels (BGLs) 
  • having somewhere to test BGLs, inject insulin and safely dispose of sharps 
  • having regular meal breaks
  • potential adjustments to diabetes management to suit the type/timing of work.  

Reasonable adjustments for T1D

People living with T1D can request modifications to help them work safely. Unless these workplace modifications would result in ‘unjustifiable hardship’ (ie, a steep cost), employers have to agree to make reasonable changes.

Some of the things you might want to request include:

  • regular snack breaks (on top of the minimum award break times)
  • a private, clean place to check blood glucose levels and administer insulin
  • hypo prevention and treatment packs in easy to reach places (ie, work station and staff first aid kit)
  • a sharps container kept on the premises.

To make these changes, employers can apply for a grant under the Employment Assistance Fund, run by the Australian Federal Government. (Note that you must be working at least eight hours a week to be eligible for the fund).

‘Safety sensitive jobs’

There are a handful of jobs that may be limited for people living with T1D. These are called ‘safety sensitive’ roles, as people or property could be put in danger if the person living with T1D has a hypo at work.

These roles vary in their limitations. It could mean just a bit more extra preparation before you get the job, while a few others will be completely ruled out. But the rules and laws are always changing, so check on the current status of the role in your state or territory.

  1. Airline cabin crew and pilots: You’ll need to supply reports from your endocrinologist, and your case will be assessed by the airline doctor.
  2. Ambulance, fire and police services: This depends on the requirements in your state or territory. For example, in NSW, the ambulance and police service will assess people on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Australian Armed Forces: People who take insulin can’t serve in the Armed Forces. This is the one Australian employer that doesn’t have to include people who don’t meet their strict entry criteria.
  4. Passenger transport: This depends on the service provider, and includes buses, trains and trams. You’ll need to pass the driving medical check.
  5. Prison service and community corrections: You’ll need to be cleared by a doctor for some roles.
  6. Transporting hazardous materials and large cargos.
  7. Working at heights, including construction sites and ladders.
  8. Working offshore: This includes working on oil rigs.

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