Workers with MS keep their condition quiet | Whyalla News


Many Australians living with multiple sclerosis do not disclose their condition to their boss because they’re worried they will be treated differently, a new survey says.

About 40 per cent of people choose to keep their chronic neurological condition to themselves, while one in four believe the disclosure will jeopardise their employment.

But an MS Australia survey released on Monday found 88 per cent of people who share their diagnosis have positive outcomes at work.

“The fear is sometimes much greater than the actual threat or the outcome that they might expect,” Monash University Associate Professor Pieter Van Dijk told AAP.

“The reality is those that have disclosed stay in work longer. They get to manage their symptoms at work with the support of the workplace and colleagues rather than trying to do it on their own.”

Sonia Marcon, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago, said employers needed to educate themselves to ensure they were creating safe workplaces.

“Having MS doesn’t make someone useless,” Ms Marcon told AAP.

“Just have faith that people with MS know how to handle themselves and if there are problems, we will be open and we will tell you.”

Flexible work arrangements, including the option to work from home, will help more people feel comfortable and respected at work.

“It’s all about accessibility, make your workplace accessible,” Ms Marcon said. “Don’t just focus on a ramp at the front door or disabled bathrooms.

“There are so many more ways that you can make workplaces accessible – the work hours and where you expect your employees to go. That’s accessibility 101.”

If a person discloses their condition, an employer shouldn’t automatically reduce their hours or change their role type, even if it’s done with the best intentions.

“When the employer focuses on their ability straightaway – saying we trust you and you’re a valued employee – people feel so much more part of the organisation,” Monash University Associate Professor Andrea Kirk-Brown told AAP.

“Those people stay longer and have more intentions to stay at work.”

Employment can make a huge difference for those living with multiple sclerosis, MS Australia president Associate Professor Des Graham said.

“New treatments have allowed people to have a higher quality of life for a longer period of time and that includes their employment,” he told AAP.

“Employment is critically important to people with any chronic disease because that’s where we get our self-identity, self-image, and our self-esteem.

“Employment is not just a job where you earn money, it frames your whole life.”

Australian Associated Press

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