MSer and HR expert Rebecca Armstrong explains how to ask for reasonable adjustments when returning to work
One of the topics that comes up regularly in the multiple sclerosis (MS) and work community is that of reasonable adjustments. As we may soon be re-entering the world of work the topic is very much alive and well, so in this column I am focusing on how to request a reasonable adjustment in the current working climate.
I think it is important to say that one of the more positive impacts of the last few months has been the fact that, for many jobs, home working has been a necessity and, on the whole, has worked. This has challenged those employers who might have been previously reluctant to think about things differently and this undoubtedly will open up doors and opportunities for more flexible working as we move forward.
Returning to work might be needed for the economy and even at an individual level for mental health, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it can be a very stressful and scary time, especially when you have an underlying condition such as MS. Employers are required by law to complete a Covid risk assessment and within that they need to consider how to keep their vulnerable employees as safe as possible. You may feel that it doesn’t fully consider your individual needs and feelings and that is where requesting a reasonable adjustment comes in.
Reasonable adjustments are there to help make work accessible for people who have a disability. They have a very broad scope and you can ask for what will make work feel safer for you. This could include working from home, flexible start and finish times (to avoid busy times), relocation of your desk, the type of work you do including your interaction with the public and of course some adjustments that may not be linked to Covid such as being situated near a fan or having dictation software. Adjustments can be permanent changes or temporary measures during a challenging period and you can also ask for them to be put in place on a trial basis if either you or your employer are unsure about how they would work in practice.
If you want to request an adjustment here are some top tips
- Think about what you need and why that would be helpful. Remember your employer is unlikely to understand MS fully and therefore including why something will help you can be the difference between getting it agreed or not.
- Think about the impact on your job and how you will continue to manage this. Your employer will consider whether agreeing an adjustment means that work delivery will suffer.
- Put your request in writing asking for what you need, for how long and what additional information that they might need.
- Consider asking your MS team to support your request with a letter or asking for a referral to occupational health to support your application.
- If the request is declined, ask for the reasons why so you can consider how to respond and whether to appeal.
Rebecca writes a regular column in New Pathways magazine. Fancy receiving every issue through your letterbox? Keep up with all the latest news and views in the world of MS by subscribing today! Subscribe to New Pathways