Migraine in the workplace

The below findings are taken from the Work Foundation's report [1]


“It isn’t necessarily because the employers are ‘bad’ or don’t care – it’s that there is very little information out there and support for the employer" (person with migraine)


Migraine has a significant impact on both employees and employers, making working life difficult to manage. It is therefore important that employers develop a culture within the workplace that challenges the stigma of migraine and encourages employees to speak openly.


There was a consensus among those the Work Foundation interviewed for the report that a lack of understanding exists among employers about the nature of migraine and the impact it has on one’s ability to function.There is also a lack of information and support to equip employers to manage this issue effectively.


In addition to the problems associated with a lack of knowledge and information, migraine’s fluctuating nature can make it difficult for employers and managers to understand the reality of the condition.


“People appear well when they’re working, they’re productive, and then they’re suddenly out for two days, the condition is hidden, then they come back to work” (Expert interview)


As a result, people with migraine have relatively high rates of short-term sickness absence. This is particularly problematic because it means that they often fall foul of employers’ sickness absence policies.


The latest available data indicates that, of a total 137.3 million days lost through sickness absence, 2.8 million were attributable to ‘headaches and migraines’. This represents a staggering 100% increase since 2012 (see Figure 3).


In order to support people with chronic, fluctuating conditions in the workplace, employers must take the following action:


1. Increased autonomy and control – allowing employees to manage their workload and perceived ‘triggers’


2. Manageable demands – reducing the risk of stress, which is trigger


3. Social support from colleagues and managers – to help them manage their condition


4. Workplace flexibility – enabling them to manage their hours, work from home if necessary and fit their work around their migraine


 Figure 3



[1] Work Foundation, Society's Headache: The socioeconomic impact of migraine, 2018