Work and MS
Don't feel you have to rush into making any decisions about your working life, and don’t let people put pressure on you. You may need time to help you adjust and good employers should understand and make allowances for this.
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Everyone with MS is covered under the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
This means that it's against the law for an employer, or potential employer, to treat you less favourably or discriminate against you because of your MS.
In England and Wales, if you feel you've been discriminated against, you can contact the Disability Law Service (DLS) for free advice on your rights.
If you live in England, Scotland or Wales the Equality Advisory & Support Service (EASS) provides information, advice and support on all types of discrimination.
Under the Equality Act, if you ask your employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so you can keep doing your job, they are required to do so.
What these adjustments are depends on your own situation, and what is considered ‘reasonable’ by both you and your employer.
Reasonable adjustments could include:
- Flexible or altered working hours, to help you with attending hospital appointments, or increased travelling time
- More regular breaks
- Moving your desk to a more accessible area of the office
- A car parking space by your nearest entrance to work
- A workstation assessment – simple things like adjusting screen brightness on computers can help
- The option to work from home
Read more about reasonable adjustments in our publication ‘Work and MS'
Help with the cost of adjustments
If you or your employer are worried about the costs of making adjustments, take a look at ‘Access to Work’.
This is a government funded scheme which can help pay for the equipment or support you need. It can also contribute to the cost of getting to work if you can’t use trains or buses, and for a communicator at job interviews if you need one.
There is more information about Access to Work on the GOV.UK website.
You can also speak to a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Job Centre Plus.
There are benevolent funds for some professions and industries. They can help pay for things like equipment, retraining and even counselling. The Turn2Us website has details of benevolent funds, and other organisations that give grants.
Live in Scotland?
Healthy Working Lives have a free Adviceline for confidential chat about a wide range of workplace health issues on 0800 019 2211.
Telling your employer
Deciding whether or not to tell your employer about your MS can be a difficult decision.
You may worry about how people will treat you if they know you have MS, or that they will discriminate against you because of your MS.
On the other hand, if your employers don’t know, they can’t help if you need to make adjustments at work.
Living with a secret every day can also be a big strain.
Do I have to tell my employer?
This depends on your situation. Normally you don’t have to unless you want to, but you must tell your employer you have MS if:
- You are in the armed forces
- You work on a plane or a ship
- Your employer asks you if you have a health condition or if you are ‘disabled for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act’
- Your MS might impact on health and safety in the workplace. For example, if you operate heavy machinery your employer needs to do a risk assessment
In some other jobs it may be written into your contract, so make sure you check.
How should I tell them?
- Be as prepared as you can be - Your employer will probably be concerned about the impact of MS on your work, and how this will affect their business. Before you tell them, think about the kinds of questions they may have, and try to answer them as objectively as possible.
- Set a friendly tone - Don’t make any demands and try not to focus on the challenges of having MS. Try to keep the conversation positive, and talk about your desire to keep doing a good job.
- Talk about ‘reasonable adjustments’ - This is a good time to talk about practical things that your employer can do to make things easier. It helps if you’ve already thought about what you might need - don’t expect your employer to know already, or do to the research themselves.
- Help them to understand MS - It’s likely that your employer won’t know much about MS. To help them to understand your needs and how they fit into the work place, why not take them some information? Our publication Work and MS and the ‘Your Work Health’ website have information for employers and employees. You could also direct them to the MS Society website or our Information Team. Call 020 8438 0799 or email email@example.com.
Help with telling your employer
If you don’t want to tell your employer yourself, but you do want them to know, you can ask someone else to tell them - a colleague or a trade union representative for example.
You could also ask a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) to speak to your employer on your behalf. Contact them via your local Jobcentre Plus.
Telling your colleagues
Telling your employer does not mean that everyone at work has to know.
You want to share information with your colleagues anyway. If they don't know, they may ask questions about any adjustments made. More importantly, if they know what you need, they are better placed to give you support.
Some people choose to tell everyone, while others tell only those they feel 'need to know'.
Looking for work after a diagnosis of MS can be stressful, but you are the same person you were the day before you were diagnosed.
Even if you are unable to do exactly the same work that you did before you developed MS, your condition does not make you unemployable.
Focus on what you have to offer an employer when you are job hunting.
While you're looking for a job, keep an eye out for adverts displaying the 'Positive about disabled people' two ticks logo. This means that all disabled applicants (and that includes anyone with MS) who meet the minimum criteria for the job are guaranteed an interview.
Help with finding a job
Your local Jobcentre Plus can give advice about every aspect of your job search, as well as help you find out which benefits or allowances you're entitled to claim.
They can also arrange for you to meet with a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA), who can help you to draw up a plan of action to get into work or further training.
There are also a number of schemes and programmes available through Jobccentre Plus to help you find work.