MS and your rights

If you have MS, the Equality Act or the Disability Discrimination Act can protect you against disability discrimination in education, work and services.

These laws can make sure things are accessible for you and that you get reasonable adjustments and support from employers, colleges, venues and people who give you a service.

Under the Equality Act you’re also protected from discrimination if you’re connected with someone who has a disability, like a family member or friend. And it can protect you if you've complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim.

The Equality Act applies in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act applies.

Find out more about the law in Northern Ireland from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

MS and the Equality Act

Is everyone with MS protected by the Equality Act?

Yes. Some conditions like cancer, HIV and MS are automatically seen as disabilities under the Equality Act.

There's no longer a national register of disabled people, so you don't need to register anywhere officially. But many local authorities do provide help and support for disabled people, so it's worth contacting your local authority to find out how they can help you.

What counts as discrimination?

Discrimination is where you’re treated unfairly and are put at a disadvantage when compared with people who aren't disabled.

You can be discriminated against:

  • directly - if you’re treated less well than others because you have MS. For example, if you’re disciplined because you need to take more time off work than your colleagues to attend medical appointments
  • indirectly – if your employer, college, venue or organisation has rules or arrangements in place which put you at an unfair disadvantage as a disabled person
  • if you’re being harassed
  • if you’re being victimised because you’ve complained about how you or someone else has been treated

What does the Equality Act cover?

Under the Act, disabled people should be treated equally. Protection from discrimination applies in many situations. These include buying or renting property, education, employment, goods, services, facilities and transport. It also covers things known as ‘public functions’, such as policing, planning applications with your local authority or receiving welfare benefits

You can’t use the Act against an individual, like a neighbour who harasses you. Though you may be able to report it as a hate crime.

The Equality Act does cover harassment by an individual at a place where you work. If you think you’ve been unfairly discriminated against you can:

  • complain directly to the person or organisation
  • use someone else to help you sort it out - for example your union representative
  • make a claim in a court or tribunal

The Equality Act at work

Under the Equality Act, employers, colleges and people who give you a service have to make reasonable adjustments to help you. Reasonable adjustments are changes to where you work that allow disabled people to work safely and productively.

These can include:

  • letting you work flexible working hours
  • flexible return to work policies after you’ve been ill
  • letting you have more breaks if you have chronic pain or fatigue
  • buying desks with adjustable heights if you use a wheelchair.

You can find more information on reasonable adjustments here.

Where can I find legal advice to help me?

We work with the Disability Law Service to fund an MS legal service for people with MS in England and Wales.And in Scotland, we work with the Legal Services Agency.

These services are free of charge to everyone affected by MS. 

Contact our MS Helpline to find out more.

Find out more about equality and discrimination 

Read more about dealing with discrimination in the workplace from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

Find out more about the Equality Act and reasonable adjustments on the Equality and Human Rights website

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