Man with epilepsy repeatedly turned down for jobs

John Murphy of Levin has suffered from epilepsy for nearly five years.
Nicholas McBride/Fairfax NZ

John Murphy of Levin has suffered from epilepsy for nearly five years.

A man with epilepsy says he is almost resigned to spending the rest of his life on a benefit because employers won't give him a chance.

John Murphy, 22, of Levin, has suffered from epilepsy for nearly five years and says it has caused him to be repeatedly turned down for jobs.

"Epilepsy only affects you five per cent of the time, but 100 per cent of the time the consequences of having epilepsy affect you.

"I have had to accept that maybe I will be on the benefit for the rest of my life."

* Life with epilepsy: 'Sometimes you just crumble'
* A normal life for her epileptic children is this mother's dream
* Epilepsy sufferer says 'let's talk about it'

He is appealing to the Government to offer better incentives to employ people with disabilities and medical conditions.

Murphy said the biggest challenge was health and safety laws.

"It's not nice when you get told by almost every employer that 'we can't hire you because of health and safety'.

"It is depressing to apply for jobs and never hear back. It does not help with your mental health."

Having epilepsy meant he could not hold a driver licence, which was another hurdle.

Ad Feedback

So, he suggested free public transport could help people in his situation.

"That would help remove that barrier of access to employment."

Murphy does volunteer work, but was hopeful of being able to take on paid employment.

Though he could not drive, he was willing use other methods if it meant he could have a job.

"I can walk. I can bike. If you really need I can take a taxi."

Murphy said he might have one seizure a week and his condition was helped by medicine and other controls.

Epilepsy NZ chief executive Graeme Ambler said one of the biggest challenges for people with epilepsy was the associated stigma.

"Those that have experienced the bias and discrimination state that it can be worse than a seizure itself.

"It can drive people living with epilepsy to breaking point simply because people in the wider community do not understand."

In New Zealand, 47,000 people live with epilepsy and six people each day are diagnosed with it.

Ambler said the introduction of the Health and Safety in the Workplace Act last year prompted a spike in employment-related calls to the organisation.

As a result, they developed an employment guide for employers and employees.

A WorkSafe spokesman said health and safety legislation did not include anything specific about disabilities or medical conditions, including epilepsy.

"The Health and Safety at Work Act requires all businesses, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of its workers and anyone else whose health and safety may be affected by work done for the business."

Meeting those requirements meant a business should carry out an assessment to understand the risks and then take appropriate actions to manage those risks, he said.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesman said there were several incentives for workplaces to employ people with conditions such as epilepsy.

Work and Income had a range of services and programmes for employing people with a disability, including recruitment services, workplace support and wage subsidies.

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback