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Had a recent diagnosis, experienced changes in your symptoms, or concerned about how to manage your neuro condition in the workplace? We can help.

Although many people with MS do not consider themselves to have a disability, the condition meets the criteria of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). This definition applies from the moment a person is diagnosed with MS regardless of how it affects them.

An employer also has a duty of care to protect employees under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

It is unlawful for an employer to treat unfairly, harass, or discriminate against a person, or to allow this to happen, in the workplace. It is also unlawful to discriminate against a potential employee because they have MS.

An employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the employee’s work or to their work processes to enable the employee to get the job done, noting the inherent requirements of a position are the essential activities and tasks that are carried out to get a job done and relate to results rather than how this is accomplished.

An employer may also be required to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to accommodate the needs of the employee. An employer is not required to make adjustments that would lead to unjustifiable hardship.

Disclosing a diagnosis of MS is a very personal choice and the decision will depend on a variety of factors.

You are required to disclose your diagnosis of MS if your symptoms prevent you from completing the essential tasks inherent to your work role or present an occupational health and safety risk to yourself or others. For example, a truck driver who experiences visual disturbances or takes pain medication that can cause drowsiness would be required to disclose their diagnosis of MS to the employer as the condition may impact safety while driving.

If you can maintain your work role, continue to complete the tasks required, and do not present a risk to yourself, others, or the organisation, you may choose to delay disclosure or not disclose at all.

If you elect to disclose, do not feel compelled to provide information beyond what is relevant to the workplace. For example, a discussion simply about fatigue and heat sensitivity may promote a discussion to enable you to work from home or in a cooler location.

MS is the most common neurological condition affecting over 25,600 Australians. Nearly three times as many women than men are affected, and people are typically diagnosed when aged in their 20s and 30s.

MS is a non-infectious and non-contagious disease of the central nervous system including the optic nerve. It can attack multiple areas of the central nervous system therefore symptoms vary, and no two people with MS will have the same experience.

MS may affect mobility and coordination, but many other possible symptoms are invisible including neuropathic pain, visual disturbance, heat sensitivity, bladder urgency, sensory issues such as numbness, and physical and cognitive fatigue. A person may appear the same as usual, yet be experiencing symptoms of MS.

The most common course of the disease is relapsing-remitting MS with symptoms partially or completely disappearing during the remission stage. While there is no cure for MS, the new generation of therapies greatly reduce the frequency and severity of relapses thereby slowing disease progression, meaning the long-held public perception of the disease progression is no longer valid.

Due to its varied nature, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing MS in the workplace.

Receive support:

The employer has an obligation to consider the health and, if necessary, make workplace adjustments to enable a person with MS to work effectively and enjoy equal opportunity with others.

Depending how MS impacts the employee, this could be as simple as:

  • Having an ergonomic office chair
  • Using a desk-fan
  • Having access to a refrigerator for cooling products
  • Moving a workstation away from a heat source, or closer to the restrooms
  • Installing a stair chair
  • Negotiating flexible or reduced work hours
  • Shifting start or finish times
  • Working from home
  • Having somewhere to rest for short periods during the workday
  • Using a parking space close to the entrance to work

Telling an employer about MS enables the employer to provide support with these changes.

Debunk the myths:

Telling colleagues about MS creates opportunities to challenge the stigma often associated with the condition and educate the community about MS.

Opening communication and being honest about MS and its impact can raise awareness of the condition and encourage advocacy in the workplace.

Managing symptoms in the workplace can model living well with MS.

Share experiences:

We are all human. Often the sharing of challenges and struggles is reciprocated, and colleagues can provide strength, compassion, encouragement, or simply someone to talk to especially on a ‘bad MS day’.


Employers and colleagues may hold negative views, or may have an inaccurate and outdated perception of MS.

They may anticipate the employee with MS will be unreliable, take a lot of time off work, work slowly, or need supervision putting more pressure on them.


The employer may assume an employee with MS does not want or would not be able to cope with further training or a promotion due to symptoms of MS: they may focus on the disability rather than the skillset and career aspirations of the individual.


MS is not well-understood adding to the importance of debunking the myths and challenging the stigma and assumptions still held by some employers.

Not everyone is aware of the new generation of therapies that greatly reduce the frequency and severity of relapses thereby slowing disease progression.

Not everyone is aware of the effective symptom-management strategies an employee with MS can use to minimise the impact of symptoms in the workplace.

How do I manage my symptoms of MS in the workplace?

Consider disclosing your diagnosis of MS to the employer:

Having open communication and understanding with your employer about MS can provide you with support and assistance to manage symptoms in the workplace. Access to minor work adjustments may enable you to continue your tasks by assisting you to manage symptoms throughout the working day.

Disclosing your MS may also alleviate stress often associated with disguising symptoms in the workplace.

Be realistic:

Be honest with yourself regarding how MS is affecting you, your work role, and your own abilities and coping strategies.

Maintaining a work-life balance encourages good mental and physical health and well-being and will likely contribute to making employment more sustainable.

Take responsibility:

Take personal responsibility to manage symptoms as well as possible in the workplace, in the community, and at home.

This could be as simple as:

  • Drinking ice-cold water, wearing a cooling vest, or using a desk fan to manage heat sensitivity
  • Completing complex tasks when feeling alert and more routine/simpler tasks if cognitively fatigued
  • Asking colleagues to request information via email rather than in conversation
  • If given the opportunity, work from home to limit consecutive days requiring commute toa workplace
  • Alternate between high energy and low-energy tasks to manage physical and cognitive fatigue
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity prior to work to manage physical fatigue
  • Participate in intervention and treatments to manage symptoms, for example a physical exercise programme, meditation and mindfulness, myotherapy/massage
  • Incorporate healthy lifestyle habits in the workplace, for example take rest breaks, short walks, and complete stretches

Make reasonable adjustments:

Discuss reasonable adjustments to the work role, work process, or workplace with the employer. A reasonable adjustment refers to workplace adjustments required to enable a person with MS (or other disability) to work effectively and enjoy equal opportunity with others.

Alert the employer to the Australian Government Job Access Employment Assistance Fund for advice and financial support for disability-specific workplace tools and equipment.

Many adjustments however cost little or nothing to put in place and may include:

  • Having an ergonomic office chair
  • Using a desk-fan
  • Having access to a refrigerator for cooling products
  • Moving a workstation away from a heat source, or closer to the restrooms
  • Installing a stair chair (funding available through Employment Assistance Fund)
  • Negotiating flexible or reduced work hours
  • Shifting start or finish times
  • Working from home arrangements
  • Having somewhere to rest for short periods during the workday
  • Using a parking space close to the entrance to work

A diagnosis of MS is a life-changing event, often prompting people to rethink their priorities and career aspirations. This can be a very positive experience. It may present as an opportunity to pursue something you have always wanted to do.

Equally, despite symptom-management strategies and workplace adjustments, you may no longer want or be able to continue in your current role. This does not mean you have to stop work altogether as there are several other options you could explore.

Consider a different role within the same organisation. It will depend on the organisation you work for, but there may be an option to move to another role that allows you to better manage your symptoms of MS.

Have a change in direction: this may include training or study, seeking new employment, turning a passion into a business, becoming self-employed.

There are employment support services specialising in assisting people with MS to find suitable work. Contact your state MS organisation for more information about their employment support services and the Australian Government Disability Employment Services.

If seeking new employment, the same guidelines regarding disclosure of MS apply. It is however important to consider your digital presence as a potential employer may learn of your MS if they search you online. Consider the possible positive and negative outcomes of this scenario; it may be that debunking the myths surrounding MS is the best approach.

Contact our Plus Connect team to learn more about how we can help.

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