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Managing symptoms at work

27th March 2019

While the number of people living with MS is still growing, studies show more people are able to stay in work than ever before with a larger focus on employment support for people with MS and treatment advances.

Symptom management in the workplace is key for people with MS to stay in work, and research shows that MS fatigue has the most impact on work performance. In the summer months, heat sensitivity can increase fatigue levels and the frequency of symptoms even more so.

Discussing reasonable changes to your job with your employer is a good start to managing MS in the workplace. Under the Fair Work Act, employers must take reasonable steps to accommodate the working needs of employees with MS, unless this causes unjustifiable hardship to the business.

Workplace negotiations

You can negotiate with your employer to make changes to your working conditions to help reduce the impact of MS symptoms on your job. Changes will vary depending on your symptoms. Some management options to consider include:

  • taking more breaks throughout the day – instead of taking an hour at lunch, perhaps take multiple smaller breaks across your shift
  • requesting a chair or stool if your job requires you to stand
  • working flexible hours as you recover from a relapse, or while the weather is hotter
  • allowing time off for medical appointments
  • working from home on particular days of the week
  • reserving a car parking space close to the entrance of your work.

Workplace modifications

Sometimes your employer will need to make modifications to your workstation, or organise specialised equipment to help make you more comfortable, and lessen the impact of symptoms at work. These will also be specific to your needs, your job and your workplace.

The most common modifications for people with MS include:

  • cooling products – cooling vests are popular, and a chilly pashmina is great for an office environment
  • portable air conditioner or fan to keep next to your workspace
  • ergonomic mouse or keyboard for office workers
  • fatigue mats for people who stand all day.

Contact our specialist Disability Employment Services staff for advice and support to manage your MS symptoms in the workplace on 1800 053 154.

Sources:

MS Research Australia, www.msra.org.au
Health Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in Australia in 2017, MS Research Australia
MS Australia’s Guide for Employees, www.msaustralia.org.au

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Managing symptoms at work