Telling Work & Occupational Health Advice ?


I’m getting ready to start back at work next Monday after an extended Christmas break.

Since I broke up in December, I’ve had the diagnosis through for SPMS. I’m unsure how to tackle the subject at work, and am looking for some experiences of others to help me decide the route to take.

Work mates already know that I’ve been suffering a lot with balance problems over the last 12 months and have had numerous tests and hospital visits trying to identify the cause. However I now feel I should tell them formally, but am unsure of the route to take. I work in the Higher Education, and believe my employer to be well respected in the sector and to be a conscientious and very fair with respect to equal rights etc etc. In that respect I consider myself lucky to have the employer I currently do, especially compared to previous employers I’ve experienced.

Any advice ?

Regards J.

Do everything in writing - by email or written - and don’t rely on a flaky memory! Nothing worse than people phoning and expecting instant answers… ask them to email the query and you’ll look at it. . And rope in the HR people and Occupational Health if your workplace has one. I have found that a little pocket sized week-to-view diary is essential for organisation, can be kept in a bag with a pen, and brought out if needed. Good luck!

hi J

you should tell the most senior manager who you work under.

this means that the DDA comes into play, making reasonable adjustments etc.

you might think that there is nothing that you need but think carefully about your work station, is your chair supporting your back properly etc.

occupational health will work with you to help you continue to work.

there is also Access to Work which works with both you and your employer to keep you in work.

if you want to tell the people who you work with, then go ahead, it’s your decision.

with the correct support, there is no reason why you cannot continue in your work.

hope i’ve helped a little, i’m very tired and don’t trust myself when i’m like this!

carole xx (who is going to bed now)

I would say that you have been diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. I would NOT say it’s Secondary Progressive as that sounds terminal! Don’t assume that you will automatically get support from your managers. I had great support from those on the same pay level as myself but some of the managers were ‘problematic’ Initially I would approach your line manager - inform her/him that you have m.s. - you’re managing o.k. at the present time but you would like the opportunity to review things with her/him periodically. (don’t mention the DDAct at this stage.) Keep things in perspective - the dx of m.s. is a massive thing for you - for some of your colleagues it wont be important.

My workplace has a very high reputation and publicly and loudly avows values of inclusion, equality and diversity. However, I have heard of a colleague being treated incredibly badly when they were going through chemotherapy. I have also seen two colleagues with mental health diagnoses who were effectively let go because of their diagnoses. I have also had my own experiences (which I won’t detail) of what they did to me over a period of many years. I was doing really well at work for years up until the point I started getting symptoms of MS, and I can honestly say that it has not been MS itself, but the way my employer responded to it, that has been the most “disabling” factor for me in my workplace.

If you have an Occupational Health department then consider making a self-referral to them. If there is a Trade Union you can join, then that is definitely worth considering. It’s also not a bad idea to be proactive by reading up on the Equality Act. Some employers react badly to any mention of the Equality Act, so if you do need recourse to it, it can be helpful to have a union rep or someone else advocating for you.

Hopefully you won’t need to call on any of the above if your employer lives up to its a reputation for being conscientious and fair. Sadly, my employer does not live up to its reputation or its stated values. I’ve been thinking a lot about that and why it might be the case. Things which have been said have made me realise that it might just be as crude as being a consequence of their bottom line (profitability) and that certain categories of staff are seen as potentially less than 100% efficient as “human resources”. To a certain extent this view is encouraged by our economic system and the management culture that goes with it. At the same time, there is a huge denial of the problem, because diversity and equality, as well as every individual’s right to dignity and respect, are supposed to be good things which our society says it values very highly. There are a lot of contradictions in the system that can lead powerful people to be less than honest and less than fair. Hopefully your workplace is NOT like this, but I always liked the advice to “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. It seems a fair way to proceed until you know what you’re dealing with.

Thanks folks, many good points for me to think through in all your replies. Perhaps I am being a little too optimistic about my employer, I think I will take on board the experience of others, and ensure I document and record everything.

I am usually a very cynical person, so its not often I take the too positive view. With MS though, I am trying my upmost to be positive and pragmatic rather than down and cynical. Easier said than done though, as I’m sure many of you are aware.