Progressive or changeable disabilities in the workplace

When dealing with progressive illnesses that have recurring and changeable symptoms such as multiple sclerosis (MS) in the workplace, employers can sometimes find the disability discrimination rules hard to navigate. Ultimately, organisations have a duty to disabled employees that rests fundamentally on their ability to be considerate, flexible and reactive.


The Equality Act 2010 recognises someone diagnosed with MS as automatically considered to have a disability, therefore receiving the full protection of the act which makes discrimination against disabled employees unlawful. The act means organisations have a legal duty to make adjustments, both physical and in policies and practices, that ensure equality between disabled and non-disabled colleagues.


Considerable time and resource are needed to comply with the adjustments that protect employees with disabilities, though it is vital organisations do not simply disregard adjustments because of cost or effort. For example with conditions such as MS, symptoms like fatigue are hidden and can be difficult for organisations to understand and therefore support the employee’s needs. Particularly when symptoms can fluctuate and change, companies need to be reactive and flexible also. It is important to employ medical and occupational health advice to discover just how the condition affects the employee’s ability to fulfil their specific role, and in turn what support you can provide to help.


Ultimately, it is all about maintaining a high level of communication between employer and employee regarding their condition and changes in it, and in turn being reactive enough to ensure your employee does not become disgruntled, increasing the risk of a claim.


If you are concerned about how best to support employees with progressive or changeable disabilities in your workplace, get in touch with the team here at First Call HR. We are happy to discuss just what policies and procedures you need to have in place to ensure you are fulfilling your legal duty.