Michelle: What are the most common reasons MSers fail to get support from their employers, such as any reasonable adjustments?
Carla King, MS Advocate: Yes, that’s a big question, isn’t it? Probably a couple of things. One, I think is, it’s the person, so for the MS, for example, the MSer, it’s quite difficult talking about something that is quite close to you and especially to a stranger, or a relative stranger.
So it’s quite hard, so often people don’t disclose because (a) they don’t feel they’re disabled enough to disclose and also because they’re just too scared, they’re too worried about making a mistake in it. So obviously if the employer doesn’t know about those things, then the reasonable adjustments aren’t put in place, so that’s kind of one thing.
I think also the culture of the organisation’s quite important, so if you’ve heard your fellow employees talking about disability in a particular way it kind of puts you off from saying anything, to be honest.
And I think sometimes reasonable adjustments take a little while to put into place, so it can also make you feel quite frustrated, and if you’ve been burned before, then you take it into your next employer and it can also be quite a bad thing. I think with employers, on the employer side, cost is always the first thing people will think about, especially smaller companies.
And the only thing to mitigate that is to look at Access to Work, it’s a government run scheme, it goes through you, so you’re the one who has to apply for it, but it’s then jointly with the employer in terms of how they sign things off or whatever.
But some of that cost might be mitigated through that scheme. And I think also they’re probably a bit concerned about, like I said before, the kind of the unknown.
You know, a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. They don’t want to be sued, they don’t want to go to a tribunal, and some people may not genuinely understand the Equality Act and how it applies to MS, particularly if you, we’ve got invisible symptoms, you and I, don’t we?
You wouldn’t ever know that I’ve got like a double whammy of a relapse right now, you never know, right? So to them we probably look absolutely fine and they’re probably going to stall a little bit, potentially, if they feel like that it’s not necessarily needed right now.
So this is why you’ve got to go to see your occupational health person or your GP or MS nurse to get that support going. I think that’s probably the best thing to say there.
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