Work safety and difficulties for employees with MS

Dr Pieter Van Dijk

Monash University, VIC

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Incubator | 2012 | Investigator Led Research |


Maintaining employment for people with MS is made difficult due to the impact of disease related symptoms on their ability to perform their job. Symptoms alone, however, do not explain the high rates of turnover for employees with MS.

A number of factors that can impact on the quality of life at work and employment status other than physical impairments and symptoms, include fear of disclosure of diagnosis and possible negative social responses from peers and supervisors. This fear can prevent people with MS from seeking appropriate support in the workplace, leading to further perceptions of being incapable of meeting job demands and early exit from paid employment.

The ‘Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010’ (2011) report indicates that lost productivity accounts for over %50 of the total cost (over $1 billion) of MS to individuals and society. One of the conclusions of this report was that investment in resources, services and employment environments that assist people with MS to remain in employment is of paramount importance, both in terms of quality of life and economic impact.

A key question for MS researchers has been to explain the voluntary and premature departure from the workforce for many people with MS, often prior to the most severe impact of symptoms on work capability. More fully understanding the psychosocial mechanisms of psychological safety and work self-efficacy will be an important step towards the development of successful vocational rehabilitation programmes.
This research will use a psychometric approach to examine the extent to which employees with MS perceive they feel trusted and respected in the workplace, and safe to participate fully at work. It will look at the relationship between these psychosocial factors and perceptions of efficacy at work.

The current project is an initial evaluation phase which will gather pilot data for a broader project addressing employment status for people with MS.

A better understanding of the experience at work for people with MS will inform the development of effective workplace support mechanisms, interventions, and education programs.

Progress to Date


Project Outcomes

The current project comprises the initial evaluation (proof of concept) phase of a broader project addressing employment status for people with MS. The results of the series of analyses performed on the data in this pilot study demonstrate that each of the selected measures are consistently measuring the variables of interest (i.e. they are internally reliable) for people with MS. The Work Self-efficacy and Psychological Safety scales have also shown consistency for people with MS. Having verified the utility of these tools, Dr Van Dijk is now continuing this work to analyse the relationship between perceptions of psychological safety, work self-efficacy and work demands for a much larger cohort of people with MS .


  • Kirk-Brown A, Van Dijk P, Simmons R, Bourne M, Cooper B. Disclosure of diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in the workplace positively affects employment status and job tenure. Mult Scler. 2013 Nov 21. (epub ahead of print)

Updated: 13 June 2013

Updated: 03 January, 2012


Grant Awarded

  •  Incubator Grant

Total Funding

  • $25,000


  • 1 year over 2012

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Work safety and difficulties for employees with MS