A pair of crutches in an office

Bagno Vignoni, Italy, 02/2012. Working in reception at a luxury hotel and spa is a good fit for Martina Vagini, who admits that previously being unemployed contributed to a severe depression. Now she has opportunity to use her training as an interpreter and meets many interesting people. Her colleagues and boss are supportive, and the pace of the work is manageable: she can set her crutches aside for long periods of the day. Credit: Carlos Spottorno. Published on this website by kind permission of the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform.

Because MS is a highly variable disease, each person may experience a number of symptoms with varying degrees of severity and/or frequency. It is the severity of symptoms and possible resulting disability that will dictate the extent that work or education will be influenced. The possibility of some degree of disability in the long-term should not outweigh the fact that people with MS can have many productive years.

People who have a less active form of the disease or whose symptoms are minimal and not visible will probably be able to continue with their usual employment and educational activities. If fatigue is a problem, they may have to plan for regular rest periods during the day.

People who have relapsing-remitting MS or who develop some level of disability will need to realistically evaluate their situation in many areas (e.g. physically, socially, cognitively) to decide on long-term as well as short-term strategies for work and education. People with MS should work with their employer and/or educational institutions to ensure their needs can be met. Small changes such as having somewhere to have a rest, or flexible work hours, can make a big difference to being able to stay on at work, as found in our survey on employment and MS.

Disclosing your MS

The decision to share information about your MS is a matter of personal judgement. If you do not have visible symptoms there may be no reason to disclose a diagnosis of MS.

On the other hand, many employers will offer support to allow someone to continue working if they understand their needs. And many educational institutions will make adjustments for people with MS, such as to their timetable, examinations or entry requirements, while maintaining a level of confidentiality.

The legal requirements to accommodate people who have disabilities vary from country to country. Your national MS society may be able to advise you of the situation in your country. Find your nearest MS organisation.

Download the Employment issue of MS in focus magazine

Planning ahead at work

Because MS might bring about some physical and cognitive disability over time, it makes sense to evaluate your current job in the light of these possible changes.

If your job is very physically demanding, you might want to consider alternative jobs or retraining to reduce the physical nature of your occupation. In a more sedentary job, your physical limitations may not impact so greatly and you might be able to work for many more years. Career counselling and vocational training may be available in your country.