Covid, diabetes and your rights at work 

Thursday, 26 August 2021

With workplace changes, we are now receiving calls about returns to workplaces, exclusions from workplaces, and health and safety policies.

Not all of them are as clear-cut, and an important thing to remember is that these are new circumstances for everybody, so communication is important.

Trends we are noticing include:

Health concerns

Some workplaces are treating their employees with diabetes differently, but because of health concerns.

The risk of severe COVID for people living with diabetes has been well publicised. Some employers are insisting that people with existing conditions obtain medical certification before returning to the workplace.

This is not necessarily discrimination. It may be in line with industry or company health and safety regulations.

However, if these directives are causing disadvantage (reduced income or hours for people with diabetes but not other employees), compared to difference (work from home with the same entitlements as colleagues), then they could fulfil the criteria for discrimination.

Different responses

Different industries, different companies and even different offices have had varied responses to the pandemic. Some have returned to physical workspaces when not in lockdown, others still concentrate on working from home, and many others are in-between.

Many companies are still finding the balance as remote working has become normalised.

If a person living with diabetes needs to maintain the increased flexibility of working from home for at least some of the working hours, then they should file a written request to their manager.  This should be responded to in 21 days.  This is the grounds for a negotiation between employer and employee, not an entitlement to flexibility.

It also applies to employees who have been in the company for more than 12 months, and are not casual.   More information about this is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Other aspects including workplace payments, government directives, social distancing and health policies can affect these decisions, so the best first step is to talk to your manager.

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