At work with MS Telling your employer that you have MS
Excluding the specific employers already mentioned, a person is not currently required to tell their employer about their condition unless there are specific health and safety risks. However adjustments cannot be made unless an employer has been told and early disclosure can be vital if effective and optimal support is to be organised.
"Keep at it, and don't disclose that you have MS until you really feel that you need to."
For some people the right time to tell their employer is when MS begins to have an impact at work. If you decide not to disclose your diagnosis to your employer and colleagues you should take into account that problems may be ascribed to other causes. For example, if you experience slurring speech or balance problems, people may think you have a drink or drugs problem. Without disclosure you cannot access the adjustments that may enable you to do your job well and this may cause stress. You may also risk getting a record for poor work performance if you experience difficulties and people are unaware of the reason.
"I found sharing my diagnosis of MS with my work colleagues a great relief."
If your work requires you to drive a vehicle you may have no alternative but to disclose your diagnosis to your employer. However, where no legal requirement exists you may like to consider the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure.
If you do decide to tell your employer about your diagnosis, the way you do this may depend very much on the culture of your workplace and the relationship you have with your manager and colleagues. It is important to remember that you are a valued member of the workforce and an employer will not want to lose an experienced and loyal employee.
"The more open about the diagnosis you are, the easier it is to access the support that will enable you to stay in work and continue to enjoy working."
However, your employer will be concerned about your ability to do your job and may not understand the nature of MS. Support from a colleague, occupational therapist, MS specialist nurse or a union representative at the meeting when you disclose your diagnosis may be helpful. Be well prepared with all the information you may require.
"You have spent a lot of time working and training for the job that you do. MS doesn't take away all that you have learned. With MS you have to find other ways to use the skills and knowledge that you have."
If you tell your employer of your MS then both you and your manager should discuss who else might need to be informed. It is up to you whether or not the entire workforce is made aware of your condition and you have the right to expect strict confidentiality.
In a society that generally rates health and fitness highly, remember that some people are not tolerant of difference and MS is often not a well-understood condition. Alternatively, some people may be too concerned for your wellbeing and want to protect you; others could become resentful of the adjustments that are made for you.
"I am fortunate to have a flexible, understanding employer who appreciates my input and worth to the business."
Disclosing MS at work doesn't always happen just once, new colleagues may join and others forget. This can mean dealing again with your own feelings about MS as well as trying to manage your colleagues' reactions.
If you are applying for a new job you are not under any obligation to disclose a diagnosis of MS and an employer is not allowed to ask about health problems during the recruitment process. However an employer can establish if you could take part in an assessment process or be able to undertake functions that are intrinsic to the job.
A Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) can give more advice and support in applying for a job and can also support people who are in work but are experiencing difficulties. Disability Employment Advisors can be contacted through your local Jobcentre Plus.
"My experience of a smaller company's attitude to MS was not that good. They helped as much as they could by changing my hours/job role but seemedto then expect everything to be OK and for me to be reliable again."
"I almost felt guilty for putting colleagues in the position I did, like how they were expected to respond. It often leads to people feeling the urge to apologise. I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, or be awkward around me. I was still the same person."
"I have been able to carry on working with only one major spell of being off work, but my colleagues knowing has been of great support in living with MS at work."