A recent article published in the Sydney Morning Herald has started a conversation around whether or not individuals with a chronic illness should disclose this diagnosis to their employer. This discussion is vitally important to increase the support and services available and to help people with many types of chronic illnesses, including the ‘invisible’ ones, to retain active employment.
There is no one-size-fits-all rule around disclosing, or not disclosing, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis to an employer, as both personal circumstances and workplace culture need to be taken into consideration. However, Australian research has shown that, for some people with MS, disclosing their diagnosis to an employer may bring significant benefits to their working life, such as improving workplace retention and the duration of employment.
Dr Pieter Van Dijk and Dr Andrea Kirk-Brown from Monash University received an MS Research Australia incubator grant in 2012 to examine the role of disclosure of diagnosis in employment retention for people with MS. The researchers collaborated with Dr Rex Simmons from Canberra Hospital to use data from the MS Research Australia-funded Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), an ongoing survey-based study designed to provide data of practical use for improving the lives of Australians living with MS.
Results from the study suggested that after disclosure of a MS diagnosis, employees may receive more assistance with workplace accommodations, social support and possibly more effective symptom management than non-disclosing employees. For more information about these study results, read our previous article.
Future research will help determine the specific impact of each of these aspects. Previous research has also shown that symptom management in the workplace plays a big role in maintaining employment for people with MS.
Individuals should consider their own personal circumstances when considering whether to disclose their MS diagnosis to an employer.
State MS Societies can provide resources to assist individuals in making this decision, and to assist employers in supporting staff with MS. Please contact your state MS Society for more information.
MS Connect contact numbers:
ACT/ NSW/ VIC: 1800 042 138
QLD: 1800 177 591
SA/NT: 1800 812 311
WA: (08) 9365 4888
TAS: 1800 676 721