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Sharing news of a diagnosis could be key to people with MS retaining employment

17 January 2014

Researchers have discovered that people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may be better off disclosing their diagnosis to their employer rather than staying quiet about their MS.

Dr Pieter Van Dijk and Dr Andrea Kirk-Brown from Monash University, in collaboration with Dr Rex Simmons from Canberra Hospital, have examined the factors that impact on employment for people with MS and the role disclosing a diagnosis plays in employment retention.

In a survey of over 2000 people with MS repeated over several years, the researchers showed that job retention was higher in people with MS who had disclosed their diagnosis to their employer.

The results suggest that after disclosure employees may receive more assistance with workplace accommodations, social support and symptom management at work, to help them remain in the workforce longer.

Symptoms of the disease such as fatigue, thinking and memory changes and loss of mobility can all contribute to people with MS needing to reduce their work hours or leave the workforce for good.

Dr Simmons has previously shown that Australians with MS have much higher levels of unemployment or under-employment in comparison to people with other chronic diseases, and often leave employment even before physical disabilities become severe.

MS Research Australia CEO Dr Matthew Miles said that this new study shows this needn’t be the case and people with MS can work with their employers to manage their symptoms and find the right balance.

“This research confirms employers really value a passionate, committed employee, regardless of their background or extenuating circumstances,” Dr Miles said.

“It should also provide comfort to thousands of people with MS across the country who are currently concerned about their work status and whether or not to disclose their MS to their employer.

“It’s important for them to know that help is available, not just through their employer but through their state MS society and that they can put in place a number of measures so they can continue to work.”

Dr Miles said continued employment has proven to be of great benefit to people with MS.

“Staying in the workforce gives a person with MS purpose, focus, independence and drive which can be very useful in maintaining a high quality of life and staying on top of their symptoms,” Dr Miles said.

The findings have recently been published in the leading international journal Multiple Sclerosis Journal.