The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia

Managing your diabetes during study and at work

Starting study or a new job can be exciting, and diabetes shouldn’t be a barrier to your career goals and dreams.

  • Find out how you can manage your diabetes effectively while working or studying.
  • Learn tips for managing stress.
  • Find out how your workplace can support you.

Should you tell your boss

Although it’s usually a personal choice whether to disclose your diabetes to your employer, there are situations where it’s necessary to do so. These situations include driving a company vehicle, operating heavy machinery, or when side-effects of medications might impact your safety at work.

Also, disclosing your diabetes to co-workers can help them support you if you have a low blood glucose levels (hypoglycaemia or hypo for short).

There are laws to ensure that a medical condition, like diabetes, can’t be used as unfair grounds for refusing you a job or promotion, or dismissal.

If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, ask for help.

Tips to help you navigate diabetes at work and during study

Manage your stress

Manage your stress

Work can be stressful sometimes. This can affect your diabetes management. Make sure you take breaks throughout the day. Consider discussing flexible work options with your manager to help balance your diabetes and job responsibilities.
Educate your colleagues

Educate your colleagues

Help your co-workers and peers understand your diabetes by talking about the condition. Encourage them to ask questions and reassure them that you’re in control of your diabetes.

Inform your manager

If you haven’t already discussed your diabetes during the job application process, now might be a good time to let your manager know so they can provide the support you need.
Stay organised

Stay organised

Use reminders and plan your day around meetings to manage your diabetes. Keep track of your blood glucose levels, insulin injections, and other diabetes-related tasks.

Managing diabetes at work

Don’t be embarrassed about managing your diabetes at work. Be open with your colleagues about what you’re doing. If they’re interested, it’s a good chance to educate them and answer their questions.

Prepare for emergencies

Everyone who has type 1 diabetes is at risk of hypos. Make sure your co-workers, peers and first aiders know how to recognise the symptoms and treat a hypo. Universities and further education colleges have support services that can give you advice and assistance. They can also protect your right to look after yourself and your diabetes during classes and exams. You’ll need to register with the support service when you enrol to study.

If there’s a health service on campus, make an appointment to see the doctor or nurse so they know about your diabetes in case you need urgent treatment.

Your workplace or educational institution has a responsibility to support you

Australia has laws to help give people with a disability or a condition like diabetes the same chance at a career as others. This means your employer or study place may need to make “reasonable adjustments” so you can do your job or succeed in your studies.

Some examples of reasonable adjustments for an employee with diabetes might include the following:

  • Keeping your medical condition confidential
  • Being flexible with your breaks, meeting times, medical appointments, and shifts
  • Allowing regular scheduled breaks in addition to usual breaks to meet your diabetes management needs (such as having snacks to help manage blood glucose levels)
  • A private and clean place to check (monitor) blood glucose levels and administer insulin
  • Installation of emergency “hypo” action kit at your workstation and a first aid kit.
  • Installation of a sharps disposal container for you to safely dispose of medical waste.

The federal government provides funds for employers to help with costs for eligible workplace adjustments under the Employment Assistance Fund.

Driving a work car

When you have diabetes, you’re legally required to tell the transport and licensing authorities in your state or territory. You must let your employer know if you drive a company car for work too.

This is important because if you haven’t let the authorities know, and are involved in an accident, you could be charged with breaking the law. You could also be sued financially and find your employee’s insurance doesn’t cover you because you didn’t disclose your diabetes.

Driving with diabetes always comes with added responsibilities.

Learn more about diabetes and driving

Safety sensitive jobs

Some jobs are considered “safety sensitive”. This means you may put people, property, or the environment at risk if you have a hypo.

Be honest about your diabetes and any potential risks you may face on the job. It’s also important to highlight your strengths and ability to manage your diabetes effectively. Some employers may require additional medical assessments or clearances before hiring someone with diabetes, so it’s important to be prepared and have any necessary documentation from your doctor or diabetes health professional. It’s also important to remember that having diabetes doesn’t have to limit your career choices, and there are many successful professionals with diabetes in a variety of fields.

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What to do if you’re not sure

What to do if you’re not sure?

Careers and jobs open to those with diabetes are always changing. If you’re interested in applying for any job and you’re unsure, just ask. There are staff in recruitment, human resources or medical advisory roles who can help you. There should be clear policies and procedures in organisations where safety is a factor.

Remember that restrictions may apply depending on the type of diabetes you have and how you manage it.

Some of these safety sensitive jobs are:

Australian Defence Force

Police Force

Police force

Fire and Ambulance 

Fire and ambulance services

Jobs that use dangerous machinery 
or a flight cabin crew member.

Jobs that use dangerous machinery or a flight cabin crew member

Transport of passengers
Transport of passengers
transport of dangerous 
materials or large cargos

Transport of dangerous materials or large cargos

Working at heights