Chris has been working at the same company for over 20 years. We spoke to him about honesty, supportive employers and MS in the workplace.
What do you do?
I’m a boat builder. I make canoes and kayaks.
When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed five years ago. When did you tell your employer?
I was having all the tests for MS, but they weren’t sure yet. I told my employer what they were testing for straight away. I was upfront and honest from the word go and they appreciate it. That way they can support me and it makes things easier for everyone.
How did they react?
They were so supportive. I took a few days off to digest the news and they told me to come back to work when I was ready. The first thing they did was assure me that my job was safe. It’s intricate work, so when I can’t do it anymore I will train people.
It’s a long process, but I’ll be able to pass on all my knowledge and experience. There are 30 or so different designs and I know them all by heart.
Now, instead of hiding things, we talk about them. That’s the best way for me.
What adaptations have they made?
It’s manual work so I’ve cut down to three days a week. It’s better for me having Friday, Saturday, Sunday off.
I’ve got my own work station and there’s a seat nearby. When I get tired I can sit down and have a coffee.
And if my arms are hurting they make changes to my work as well. They find something else for me to do, like assembling bits and pieces.
They’ve released the pressure by changing my deadlines too. All this extra support helps massively. It’s unbelievable.
What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t told their employer about their MS?
I appreciate how difficult it is to tell someone, but I think it’s vital. You have to be open about it.
If I have a relapse, my employer needs to know.
All the sick leave and medical appointments wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t know.
I know not everyone gets this level of support. But how can your employer support you if they don’t know what’s going on?