People with MS

Now what?

In the middle of tests, diagnosis and treatment there’s family life and your job. At EMSP we know there are so many aspects of life affected by MS including your work. But working, or not, impacts our personal life, security, self-belief, ambitions and personal development in unique ways. 
What is SO great about work? We at EMSP work with other experts in work (The Work Foundation, Well Working Matters, European Network for Workplace Health Promotion and other organisations) on issues to do with MS and work. Work is about your potential to gain financial independence, use your skills, knowledge and education. Work is gives people a sense of purpose, is an outlet for social interaction and is one of the best ways to prevent poverty and social isolation.

Photo by Rawpixel/iStock / Getty Images

There is a range of issues that might come up for people with MS at work

  • Be strategic, learn as much as possible about your rights and responsibilities in work.

  • Read up on the national employment legislation and your fundamental rights

  • Contact your national MS society and ask for the information about employment and MS

  • Talk it out with someone, either face to face or online

  • Become an assertive self-advocate. This is about playing a proactive role in managing your health, your life and your career development.

  • Consider what adjustments might make your work-life better. Would flexibility in your workhours be helpful? Do you need to sit closer to the facilities?


Disclosure in the workplace can have a significant impact on your work. Be prepared for the conversation with your employer. Know your rights according to national law, speak to an employment law specialist if you need and have a plan. You and your workplace will benefit.

Somethings to be mindful of when you’re preparing:

  1. You- how have you dealt with the news of your diagnosis? Have you spoken to a healthcare professional about how you’re dealing with the news or any feelings you are having? Are you ready to disclose to your manager/human resource person/boss/employee support worker?

  2. The other person- who are they? Why are you telling them? If it is in work, are they the right person to speak to?

  3. The situation- What is going on for you in work? Have you considered solutions/options to discuss if you need changes made?

  4. Check out the Practical Toolkit for Employers from EMSP.

  5. Telling your employer about your condition ensures effective support based on your needs.

  6. When you take control of the discussion, you highlight what changes you need. It also means that you’re in charge of how the information about your personal situation is understood.

  7. Your disclosure is not for public/workplace gossip. Expect your information will be treated as confidential and express this. Other than the people that need to know (your line manager, human resources, medical support officer) your information is for you to share, should you choose .


Examples from the Believe and Achieve programme


Sorin Nicu worked as a waiter in his new home of Lisbon. Originally from Romania, he made Portugal his new home. It was during this career that he was diagnosed with MS, he was managed out of his job and tried to find new work. He applied and successfully joined the Believe and Achieve programme, interning with Novartis Lisbon. He spent six months gaining new professional skills, building his network and revitalising his life. When his placement finished, he worked on a book about people with MS and continues to advocate for employment opportunities for people with MS. 

Emma Hughes was working in a job for a number of years before she saw the internship opportunity of Believe and Achieve. When she was diagnosed and was experiencing symptoms, she spoke to her employer about making some changes to her work day. These were first accepted but soon Emma was put back into a position where the reasonable accommodations were not being adhered to. After successfully getting an internship with the Believe and Achieve programme, she worked in operations, excelling in her role within the company. Soon, she was involved in setting up different systems as well as responding to the business’ needs. Her placement was extended and when she finished in the role, she was encouraged by having four offers from different companies. She is currently continuing her career with a leading company in Dublin, Ireland. 

The benefits of having good return to work policies in place in the workforce include*:

  • Reduce sick leave and lost work productivity among workers

  • Reduce healthcare costs by up to two‐thirds

  • Reduce disability costs by 80%

  • Reduced the risk of permanent work disability and job loss by up to 50%

  • Reduce the risk of developing co-morbid illnesses

  • Deliver societal benefits by supporting people to optimise their functional capacity and remain active at work and maintain economic independence. 

*Quotes from Economics of Early Intervention from the Work Foundation