Research reveals that over a third of people have experienced discrimination at work because of their migraines

Research reveals extent of workplace discrimination due to migraine

3rd July 2023

We are calling for workplaces to better support people with migraine

Our latest research reveals the devastating impact on the working lives and careers of people living with the condition.

56% 56% of people say their workplace hasn’t made reasonable adjustments to help them manage migraine attacks at work

30% 30% of people surveyed felt harassed or victimised in the workplace

22% 22% of people surveyed have faced disciplinary action

Migraine in the workplace

Migraines are experienced by 1 in 7 people in the UK yet is still poorly understood and largely ignored in the workplace. At a time when a record number of people are not working due to ill health in the UK, it is more imperative than ever for our workplaces to adapt to meet employees’ needs. Every year, migraines cost the UK economy an estimated £9.2bn, over 98% of which comes from lost productivity.

Our latest research found an alarming 34% of people living with migraine have felt discriminated against at work, and 30% have felt harassed or victimised in the workplace, due to their migraine. Almost half (43%) of people with migraine reported that their workplace did not believe them when they had to take sick leave due to a migraine attack, and 45% have felt that their managers didn’t take their migraine seriously.

Lack of support

For many people with migraine, the lack of support and understanding from their workplace has been catastrophic. Almost a quarter (22%) have faced disciplinary action or changed careers, while almost a third (29%) have had to move from full-time to part-time work, and 33% have had to leave their job altogether. This is especially concerning against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis.

190,000 migraine attacks happen every day in the UK – equivalent to 396 attacks a minute in the average working day. Despite being such a common experience for so many people of working age, employees with migraine are simply not receiving adequate support.

Shockingly, over half of people surveyed (56%) say their workplace hasn’t made reasonable adjustments to help them manage migraine attacks at work, yet the solutions are simple and can be the difference between somebody being able to do their job and staying employed.

Triggers for migraine in the workplace

Our research revealed the top five triggers for migraine in the workplace are lighting (83%), stress (80%), screens (58%), noise (54%) and long hours (46%). By implementing reasonable adjustments as simple as regular screen breaks, softer lighting, flexible working hours and quiet spaces, businesses can support workers with migraine while protecting their bottom line.

"The research paints a clear and painful picture for people with migraine who are trying their best to perform well at work. It's more important than ever to empower employees and employers with practical information on what migraine is and how to manage it in the workplace. It’s very likely that you work with someone who has migraine, you just don’t know it, as so many people don’t disclose their condition for fear of discrimination. By having open conversations and leaving misconceptions about migraine at the door, we can transform outcomes for people with migraine at scale.”

Rob Music, Chief Executive of The Migraine Trust

We exist to help people with migraine by providing information and support, campaigning for awareness and change, and funding and promoting research to improve outcomes. Our migraine in the workplace toolkit aims to empower employees to help manage migraine at work, understand their rights, and to have productive conversations with their employers.