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With Migraine Awareness Week UK having started on 1st September, HRreview decided to reach out to HR and health care professionals to ask how best to support employees suffering with migraines.

Emma O’ Leary, HR director at ELAS, a group providing multiple business support services, said:

Migraines can be debilitating so it’s important to offer support to sufferers in the workplace.

For those that do suffer and cannot be assisted by altering their working environment, the focus should be on how their absences are handled if they are caused by migraines. It may require employers to review or adjust their absence monitoring criteria so that genuine sufferers are not penalised by absence trigger points.

Particularly if the particular migraine condition has a long term adverse effect on the day to day living of the employee, then it may be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010.  This would then certainly require reasonable adjustments and ensuring that the employee is not treated less favourably on the grounds of their condition.

David Price, CEO of Health Assured, a health and wellbeing network, said:

Reasonable adjustments may be required for those who suffer from chronic migraines to reduce the impact at work, including special amendments to display equipment and office lighting. Individuals may also benefit from a period of home working or from removing any work duties that exacerbate their condition.

Staff may require time off sick as a result of their migraines, especially as severe cases can last for several hours, and employers shouldn’t hesitate to allow time off in these circumstances.

Suzanne Steed, cancer nurse specialist from HSC Health, a specialist cancer support service, said:

To assist employees with migraines, you should ensure that staff regularly take screen breaks throughout the day and have scheduled lunch breaks in the middle of the day so that they have food intake regularly.  Additionally, having an outside area which is suitable for staff to sit will allow employees fresh air when needed and a company water bottle cooler will encourage staff to keep hydrated throughout the day.

If the employee feels their migraine approaching then it is important for the employer to be aware and offer time off immediately, with the hope of stopping it or lessening its severity.

One branch of the public sector has implemented this advice. As part of Migraine Awareness Week, the Civil Service has partnered with Migraine Trust UK in order to support civil servants who suffer from migraines and to raise awareness for the issue.

Sir Phillip Rutnam, permanent secretary at the Home Office and Civil Service Disability Champion, said:

It is our responsibility to create a workplace that provides staff with the support and understanding they need to thrive. Migraines are an extremely serious and often debilitating condition that affect a significant proportion of the population, including those in the Civil Service.

“We are delighted to have teamed up with The Migraine Trust to shine a light on the workplace challenges migraine sufferers face, and to raise awareness of what we – as employers and colleagues – can do to help.

According to Migraine Trust UK, a migraine normally consists of an extremely painful headache accompanied by symptoms such as disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. It is the third most common disease in the world and affects one out of seven people worldwide, making it more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.

Interested in wellbeing? We recommend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.