People with MS face ‘disturbing’ levels of workplace mistreatment

Published date: 20 Oct 2016 at 7:19AM

A quarter (24%) of people with MS say their employer has treated them badly as a result of their condition, and a fifth (20%) say their colleagues have. This is according to our latest survey findings, which look at workplace discrimination.

Of the people who say they have faced mistreatment from their employer, an overwhelming majority (91%) say their employers knew they had MS. And 85% who faced mistreatment from their work colleagues say their colleagues were aware of their MS.

In the survey, people shared many distressing experiences of mistreatment. These included facing offensive and humiliating comments, feeling bullied and being accused of looking too well to have an illness or disability.

People also say they have lost out on promotions, been forced out of work unfairly and had requests for reasonable working adjustments denied.

Unfair dismissal

Andy had been working for a small business for five years when he found out he had MS. The relapse that led to his diagnosis left him with severe mobility and cognitive problems and he was signed off work for several months. At the time, his employer was fantastic and reassured him that his job was secure.

When he returned to work, the atmosphere had completely changed: “They offered me a new contract with fewer hours, no sick pay and on a three-month rolling basis. There was no way I could accept it. I was then asked to attend an occupational health assessment. But I found the assessor had no understanding of MS and hadn’t even seen my medical notes. I was then fired on the grounds of ill health.

“I was devastated. I felt like the decision had been made before the assessment – they thought I couldn’t do my job properly because of my diagnosis. I knew this was wrong, so I took legal action.

“It was a hard battle, but after three years I won my case for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. Since then, I’ve successfully launched my own digital marketing consultancy.”

We need a shift in attitudes

Michelle Mitchell, our Chief Executive, said: “Our survey clearly shows the need for a shift in attitudes to better support people with long-term conditions and disabilities to stay in work. It’s disturbing to hear so many accounts of people being bullied and mistreated at work because of their condition, especially as people with MS are protected against discrimination under equality law.

“We know that some people with MS absolutely won’t be able to work because of their condition, but for those who can, simple adjustments and supportive employers can make a huge difference. We want to see more positive workplace cultures that value the important contributions that people with MS can make.”

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Page last updated: 09 Jan 2017

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