Migraine at work

A National Migraine Centre factsheet

Reducing the impact of migraine on your job

Migraine and employment

Migraine affects one in seven people in the UK. Yet research undertaken by the National Migraine Centre suggests more than 50 per cent of those with chronic migraine feel their employers are not supportive of their condition. Our research with patients showed:

  • 25 per cent had to change careers because of their migraines and/or headaches
  • 16 per cent lost their job because of migraines and/or headaches
  • 97 per cent of respondents worked while in pain caused by headache
  • 54 per cent suffer financially due to their migraines
  • Chronic sufferers lose 16.8 days of work per year due to headache-related conditions
  • The impact of migraine and headaches on work is often unseen, underestimated and misunderstood by employers and can be underplayed by sufferers to hold on to jobs.

Migraine and work: employment rights in the UK

Research by the CBI found migraine was the second most common reason why people are away from non-manual jobs long term.

Our research suggests migraine discrimination in the workplace could be commonplace. Yet under the Equality Act 2010, it may be an offence for an employer to discriminate against someone because they suffer migraine. Under the Act, migraine may be considered a disability, depending on the frequency, severity and impact of the attacks.

The Act also places certain obligations on employers to make reasonable adjustments to jobs in order to enable those with migraine to continue working. This might include allowing you to take breaks regularly throughout the day rather than one long lunch break, fitting an anti-glare screen to your computer monitor, reviewing lighting in your office and allowing time off to see medical professionals.

Occasional migraines cause a lot of inconvenience and interruption to work, but for those who experience attacks that have a significant impact on their lives over a period of more than one year, the condition may be legally classified as a disability. This provides employment protections (check out the Acas website to learn more).

The National Migraine Centre’s headache specialists can help you to understand, as well as reduce, the severity and impact of your headaches.

Migraine and time off work

Typical migraine attacks will generally last from two to 72 hours, meaning that migraine sick leave can vary greatly from person to person and attack to attack.

You may find that spending quiet time in the sick room for a couple of hours, if your workplace has one, is enough. But you may also sometimes need to step away from work altogether for a couple of days. It’s important, then, that you understand the absence policies in place for your organisation, specifically the ones for short-term sick leave.

Your employee handbook or sickness policy should outline the approach that your organisation takes towards employee sickness. If you’re at all unsure, speak with your human resources team or your manager.

Speak to your employer

Migraine is widely misunderstood by those who don’t suffer with the condition. Make sure to speak to your manager about your condition and how it affects you, so that they understand it’s so much more than just an occasional headache. Your employer can’t help you unless they know more about how it affects you.

You can ask your headache specialist to provide you with information that you can share with your employer. You can also direct your manager to our information on migraine for employers or suggest they consider joining our corporate wellbeing programme, which can reduce staff absences by helping employees manage their migraines.

You can find more information on our corporate wellbeing programme here.

Corporate wellbeing: migraine and work

Employee wellbeing programme

Find out more

Book an appointment with the experts: review the best treatment options for you with a leading headache specialist. Beat the misery of migraine and get back to living. Book your consultation through the National Migraine Centre now.

Speak to a leading GP headache specialist or consultant neurologist remotely, from the comfort of your home.

The National Migraine Centre has helped thousands of people like you to take control of headache. Get expert advice with specialist consultations, access the latest treatments and anti-CGRP medications, and book procedures such as Botox and nerve block.

Get back to living: book a consultation today

Book a consultation

Our factsheets provide general information only. They are not intended to amount to medical advice on which you should rely or to advocate or recommend the purchase of any product or endorse or guarantee the credentials or appropriateness of any health care provider. No material within our factsheets is intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our factsheets. Do not begin a new medical regimen, or ignore the advice of a medical professional, as a result of information contained within these factsheets, our website or from any of the websites to which we may link. Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our factsheets, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied that the content on our factsheets and website is accurate, complete or up to date. Any hyperlinks or references are provided for your convenience & information only. We have no control over third party websites and accept no legal responsibility for any content, material or information contained in them. The information provided in this factsheet does not constitute any form of legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific legal advice. It is not intended to be relied upon by you in making (or refraining from making) any specific decisions. We strongly recommend that you obtain professional legal advice from a qualified solicitor before taking or refraining from taking any action. You may print off, and download extracts, of any page(s) from our website for your personal use and you may draw the attention of others within your organisation to content posted on our site. You must not modify the paper or digital copies of any materials you have printed off or downloaded in any way, and you must not use any illustrations, photographs, video or audio sequences or any graphics separately from any accompanying text. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.
© 2022 National Migraine Centre. All rights reserved. Registered charity no: 1115935. Company limited by guarantee (England and Wales) no: 05846538.

Your questions

Find the answers to commonly asked questions about our clinic and what you can expect from a consultation.

View all frequently asked questions

Factsheets & resources

Expert factsheets, free resources and headache diaries: trusted information on all aspects of headache and migraine, produced by leading doctors.

Check out our range of factsheets