Disclosure is a critical factor in negotiating arrangements to support your performance at work. Often the natural reaction is to tell your employer shortly after diagnosis, but this may be too soon. It is worth taking time to think about when and how you will tell them, and who you want to involve. It can be a particularly challenging aspect of managingyour MS because to disclose requires courage and risk-taking at a time when you may be feeling uncertain about what your diagnosis might mean for you.
Ideally, disclosure is about telling the right person, at the right time, in the right place, at a time when you are ready. Remember that it might only be one person you want to tell. There is no reason everyone you work with needs to know your diagnosis. People often report that they arelying to colleagues in not telling them. However, rarely do we share our medical conditions with people we work with - medical conditions often remain “secrets” and this is not a bad thing.
You are not obliged to disclose a health condition ; it is your own decision. However, without disclosure you may not be legally protected against discrimination with regards to your MS and your performance at work. Also, unless you disclose your condition, your employer is not obliged to make reasonable adjustments for you in the workplace.
In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act (2010) makes discrimination unlawful. The law prohibits people with disabilities being less favourably treated than others. The law reqiuires employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace and working arrangements to accommodate people with a disability.
At a job interview, if you are asked whether you are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act or Disability Discrimination (NI) Order, you must answer “YES” because MS is a disability under the law. Be aware of the wording of the questions. If you are asked directly if you have a health condition, you must disclose it. You can distinguish between a health condition and safety issues. example ; if you have to climb a set of ladders at work and you are concerned about your balance, you must disclose your condition. If you are asked about your sick leave patterns, you should be honest but not have to disclose your MS.
If you are already emplyed when you are diagnosed, under the law you do not have to tell your employer - unless you are in the armed forces or work on an aeroplane or ship. However, you need to check you employment contract to see what it says about disclosure. If your MS could put you or others at risk in the workplace you must disclose to your employer know so they can undertake a risk assessment. Your employer also needs to know you have a disability if you want them to adjust your working patterns or enviroment.
Finally, there is a MS Society Booklet - “WORKING YET WORRIED” - A toolkit of information and resourses for people with MS who are in employment. You can get this at the MS Society Helpline or your local MS branch.
Hope this is of some help. Andy