The MS-UK Helpline regularly receives calls from the multiple sclerosis (MS) community with questions about working with MS. Here’s some useful information and resources which could help answer some commonly asked questions.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions we receive
- How do I talk with my employer about MS?
- What will an occupational health worker be doing?
- What are reasonable adjustments?
- Is there any help with disputes and problems?
- Is the law on my side?
We will do our best to try to cover these issues in this blog.
When it comes to work and employment issues MS is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010). This means that employers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled workers which will enable them to stay in their job. It is important to note however that employers are not required to change the basic nature of the role. The Equality Act includes people with MS from the point of diagnosis even though they may not see themselves as disabled.
Reasonable adjustments could include:
- a stepped and planned return to work after a relapse
- a dedicated parking space near work
- flexible working hours
- a desk in a cooler part of the working environment
To gain this kind of support and get a reasonable adjustment to your working practices you would need to communicate with your employer about your MS and explain how it is affecting your ability to fulfil your role. This will help your employer to understand what it means for you as an individual. It is suggested that even if you have a good relationship with your employer that you put this in writing to them.
It may well be that you could get the help of an occupational therapist who can look into barriers at work and make suggestions as to how to get past them. For example, this may involve rearranging a workspace, getting some assistive equipment or specialist software. In some areas, they may be able to visit your workplace. Your MS nurse will be able to refer to an occupational therapist through the NHS.
Occupational health services are offered by some employers. The occupational health professional will discuss and assess any adjustments needed to the workplace or working arrangements. They will also make recommendations after their assessment. If you feel that this would be useful for you, it would be worth having a conversation with Human Resources (HR) staff for the organisation you work for. HR and occupational health can help you and your employer to work together to understand the impact of MS and any adjustments needed. HR professionals will also help your employer to understand their legal responsibilities towards you as an employee with a disability.
Reasonable adjustments must be bespoke and tailored to each individual, and it must be said that for some roles unfortunately there are very little adjustments that can be made. If this is the case and working becomes too much of a challenge, it is a good idea that you seek specialist employment or legal advice.
The MS-UK Helpline is here for you if you need someone to talk to about work and MS, or anything else. Our team is available 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday through our freephone line on 0800 783 0518, email on email@example.com or through webchat.
Part two of this blog coming soon – Organisations that support working with MS.