In most instances there is no legal obligation for a person with MS to disclose their diagnosis to their employer, however research shows that people who disclose their MS are able to remain in the workplace for longer. You do need to disclose your MS when:
- you are asked directly if you have anymedical condition or illness;
- your MS symptoms pose a workplace risk to self and or others (e.g. sight problems in a role where vision is essential); or
- your MS related symptoms prevent you from meeting the core requirements of the position.
Disclosure provides an opportunity for the employer and employee to work together to address any issues that may arise, such as flexible working hours or physical workspace modifications.
Preparing for disclosure
If you decide to disclose your MS to your employer, it is important to equip yourself with an understanding of your workplace rights and the support options available. You should also review the terms and conditions of your employment contract, superannuation entitlements, and any insurance cover you may hold. MSQ can assist with helping you prepare for a meeting with your employer.
Employment and the law/Legal obligations & rights
People living with a disability including MS are protected by State and Commonwealth discrimination laws in a number of areas of life including employment. In Queensland this means that an employer has a responsibility to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace to assist in managing issues that arise. For example it could be considered fair and reasonable for an employer to adjust your workplace environment through flexible work hours to assist in managing fatigue. Equally, it is discriminatory and therefore illegal to treat a person with MS differently because they have MS (such as not being considered for a promotion because of their MS rather than their ability).
Privacy Laws can also offer protection around disclose and sharing of your personal medical information in the workplace.
Making reasonable adjustments
An employer is bound by law to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate a disability or chronic condition. What is considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’ varies depending on the workplace and the job role.
This may involve:
- flexible work arrangements or hours
- work from home
- scheduled rest breaks to assist with fatigue
- a designated car park
- equipment and aids to assist you
- Workplace modifications may also help, and may come at little or no cost to the employer through government-funded programs.
Retraining and seeking employment
Many people with MS will be in the position of seeking employment at different stages of their life or career. This may be due to a negative workplace experience, redundancy, seeking a new career path, no longer being able to do the work they were originally trained for, or simply seeking work after parenting or other leave.
If you are seeking work and are unsure how to approach sharing information about your MS, the same guidelines around disclosure apply. Preparing for your disclosure meeting with one of our staff could be of benefit as it provides you with the best opportunity to paint a clear picture of your individual experience of MS and set the path for future. MSQ also offers an MS Employment Support Service providing specialist assistance to help you seek and retain employment.