Are people in your team with diabetes in danger of being judged?

20 June 2016

Bupa Medical Director Steve Iley explains why people can be incorrectly blamed for having diabetes and suggests how members of your team could be supported in the workplace.

“Let’s start with a couple of common preconceptions about diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes: the injecting-insulin kind. Not your fault if you have it.
  • Type 2 diabetes: linked with being overweight or obese. Your fault if you develop it.

“Parts of these points are true. The way I explain diabetes simply is: type 1 occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough or any insulin, so many sufferers inject it; and type 2 is when the body is resistant to the insulin you are producing. The main factor (although not the only one) affecting your likelihood of developing type 2 is being overweight or obese.

“It’s the ‘fault’ part that I have a problem with. Yes, type 2 is very directly related to your weight and to your lifestyle but your background, ethnicity and genes also play a part. Plus, as anyone who has struggled with their weight will know, there are a lot of complex reasons why a person might be overweight.


Why should small businesses care?

“Firstly – and this comes from my experience as a GP and working with employers – people running their own business can come under a lot of stress. I think it’s fair to say that, sometimes, looking after yourself lies low on the list of priorities. A bad diet can lead to putting on weight, which puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Secondly, 90% of the 3.5 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK have type 21 so it affects a lot of people, some of whom might work for you. And if they do work for you, it’s in your interest to support them and help them manage their condition, mostly because you no doubt care about their health, but also because this could help reduce their likelihood of becoming ill and taking time off work.

“This is easier said than done. Say, for example, you’re running a construction business, where most days could start with a fry-up or a bacon sandwich. Your team might not be used to a culture of healthy eating. But in my experience, they could surprise you. If you ask for their ideas and get a bit of competition going between them as to who can bring in the healthiest lunch, that can work very well.

“But perhaps you could start by doing a risk assessment. This could be as simple as taking a look at your team. You probably know them well, so you’ll know who’s overweight or obese and their eating habits. And if you think some of them might be at risk of diabetes, you could talk to us about, for example, setting up a day of Bupa Health Checks in your workplace. Or perhaps hold an awareness day with support from Diabetes UK.

“Helping prevent serious conditions getting worse through being supported is a key part of maintaining a happy, healthy and productive team.”

Steve Iley is Medical Director for UK insurance at Bupa. He is also a GP with training in occupational and travel medicine.

Because the more we know about our health the better, Bupa Health Checks are available to all team – not just those with health insurance. Fill in your details in our contact form and we'll get back to you.


  1. Diabetes in the News, Diabetes UK (page 5)

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