There’s no doubt that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can impact a life in multiple ways. Although managing symptoms and disclosing the diagnosis to friends and family can be tough, the thought of raising the issue in a workplace can be completely overwhelming. For this reason, many sufferers of multiple sclerosis aren’t sure whether or not to disclose the illness to employers as it’s often too difficult to know how their decision will affect them in the long-run. To help guide those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, this blog details when and why you may want to disclose your illness in the workplace, and instances when you may have a legal obligation to do so.
You don’t always have to disclose your illness
Although some may feel that MS and employment can’t get along, this is far from the truth. Unless you’re experiencing difficulties working due to your illness, there’s no reason at all to disclose MS to your employer. For people in this position, non-disclosure of multiple sclerosis may be a decision based on a fear of discrimination and the quashing of new opportunities. Employees are only required to disclose MS if symptoms are likely to affect your capacity to perform the core duties of your role, or if you pose a danger to the occupational health and safety risk of both yourself and your co-workers. This also applies if there is any potential for the medication to impact your role. For example, the use of pain medication may inhibit your ability to operate heavy machinery (such as driving a car). Even though you may be experiencing symptoms related to multiple sclerosis, you may very well have them under control – applying yourself to your work and succeeding even with symptoms is absolutely possible through careful planning and preparation. Factors that help include careful fatigue management, attention to diet, good rest and regular exercise.
How to tell people in the workplace
There are instances where an employer may ask for a pre-employment medical assessment, and although you don’t have an obligation to answer in full detail, refusing the test may raise unnecessary concerns on the employer’s part. If you are required to conduct an assessment, it is advisable to speak to someone directly to ensure more accurate relaying of information. The kind of information you choose to disclose, if and when you decide to, is also extremely important to consider. You can tailor the information you decide to present to ensure that strengths and strategies for symptom management are apparent – there’s no need to demonstrate your symptoms in a solely negative light, as this can cause discrimination in the workplace. This approach also has the benefit of instilling confidence in your employer, as a clear management plan designed to help you work well will prevent a great deal of negative scrutiny.
Make revealing symptoms work for you
It’s important to remember that while revealing a multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be hard, there is some good that can come out of it as well. Disclosing MS can give you the valuable opportunity to demystify commonly confusing facets of the illness, provide a chance to negotiate adjustments to your workplace or duties and may alleviate the stresses that come with regularly covering up your symptoms. While there’s no doubt that revealing an MS diagnosis can be extremely difficult, doing so does not have to mean the end of your career – careful consideration, planning and disclosure can mean quite the opposite.