People living with multiple sclerosis (MS) are facing ‘disturbing’ levels of disability discrimination at work. New research by the MS Society (of over 1,000 people living with MS) found that almost a quarter say their employer has treated them badly as a result of their condition.
A further fifth of respondents say their work colleagues have done so. Of the people who say they have faced mistreatment from their employer, an overwhelming majority (91%) say their employers knew they had MS. And 85% who faced mistreatment from their work colleagues say their colleagues were aware.
The survey reveals distressing examples of mistreatment people have faced at work because of their MS, says the charity. This includes facing offensive and humiliating comments, feeling bullied, and being accused of looking too well to have an illness or disability. People also say they have lost out on promotions, been forced out of work unfairly, and have had requests for reasonable adjustments denied (adjustments to working practices or practical support to help people to continue to do their role effectively).
Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society, says: “It’s disturbing to hear of so many accounts of people being bullied and mistreated at work because of their condition, especially as people with MS are protected against discrimination under equality law.
“We know that some people with MS absolutely won’t be able to work, but for those who can, simple adjustments and supportive employers can make a huge difference. We want to see more positive workplace cultures that value the important contributions people with MS can make.”
MS affects more than 100,000 people in the UK and symptoms typically appear when people are in their 20s and 30s – an age at which they are likely to be in work. MS attacks the nervous system, it’s often painful and exhausting and can cause problems with how we walk, move, see, think and feel. It’s unpredictable and different for everyone.
The MS Society is releasing these survey results ahead of a report on employment support for people with MS by a cross-party group of MPs and Peers, which will be published next month. The All Party Parliamentary Group for MS will issue its recommendations on 14 November following a year-long review looking into whether people with MS have the support they need to stay in, or get back into, work.
How can employers make the adjustments needed for people with MS to make an important contribution at work? How can employer’s promote positive workplace cultures? And what do they need to do to ensure that no employee is discriminated against (in this case, on the basis of his or her disability)?
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