Migraine Awareness Week – how employers can help

By September 4, 2019Advice, Sickness Management

This week is Migraine Awareness Week – a yearly campaign designed to raise public knowledge of the condition.


The Migraine Trust states that the aim of the week is to raise the profile of migraine as a complex neurological condition and dispel any ideas that it is ‘just a headache’.


One of the main focuses of this year’s campaign is to create workplaces that are ‘Mindful of Migraine’; to make employers aware of the high numbers of people who get migraine and how to make reasonable adjustments to manage them.


A survey by Amarach Research revealed:


  • Almost 70% of migraine sufferers are concerned about their overall quality of life

  • Nearly 50% are concerned about their productivity, and 20% are concerned about their family and relationships

  • Two-thirds of migraine sufferers said that the most common form of stigma associated with migraine is that they are over-reacting to a bad headache

  • 71% of sufferers have or know someone who has left work early or not finished a task in work due to migraine

  • 36% of sufferers have left a job or reduced weekly hours due to migraine


What can employers do?

Migraine may be considered as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 in some cases. This will depend on the severity and frequency of the attacks and the impact the condition has on the person.


Once a manager becomes aware of an employee having migraine issues, then reasonable adjustments should be made.


Usual sickness absence procedures can be problematic for people suffering with migraine. Many organisations use triggers based on the number of short-term absences an employee has, leading to investigation and disciplinary procedures.


This can result in people with migraine being monitored or disciplined for unavoidable sickness absence. Employers should be wary of discriminating against migraine suffers as they may feel they are been harassed or victimised.


Employers should put reasonable adjustments in place. These can include:


  • Flexible hours – avoiding the need to take sick leave, reducing worries about being late

  • Flexible breaks – giving employees time to manage migraine triggers

  • Access to drinking water – dehydration can cause migraine

  • Time off for medical appointments

  • Stress risk assessments – identifying what causes stress, a common trigger

  • Workstations – overuse of screens or poor posture can be a cause of migraine

  • Regular updates – continual discussions about how the employee is coping


An adjustment that employers should be wary of is the reduction of glare. Overhead lighting and sunlight are especially triggering of migraines.


It can be difficult in many workplace to adjust lighting as it effects other people’s work and reducing it can lead to other health and safety issues. However, changes can be made to individual workspaces to help migraine sufferers. For example:


  • Antiglare screens can help with visual display unit (VDU) flicker

  • Text display large enough to read easily

  • Limited laptop and mobile phone use

  • Controlling light from windows using blinds or curtains

  • Using indirect lighting, such as an individual lamp with an uplighter


By communicating with migraine suffers about what their triggers are, and knowing what could be done to alleviate them, sickness absence levels should reduce and productivity maintained.


Learn more

To learn more about managing absence, the Equality Act 2010, or how to make reasonable adjustments, call a Deminos advisor on 020 7870 1090.

Author David Ralph

More posts by David Ralph

Leave a Reply