Stop the health-related brain drain – sign the PACT

Somewhere for a 30-minute nap at lunchtime and a desk nearer the loo are simple measures employers can introduce to keep staff with MS and other long-term conditions on the payroll.

What a difference we could make. Across Europe, 80% of people with MS quit their jobs within 15 years of being diagnosed because work becomes impossible.

So while friends and family build careers, if you have MS – however talented, well trained or ambitious you are – unemployment looms between the age of 35 and 55.

In the UK, only 8% of people with MS have a full-time job, and 11% work part-time, although in the early stages of the disease 77% stay in work.

With unemployment comes falling aspirations and financial dependence – social exclusion, marginalisation and poverty.

But as employers we can halt the exodus of talent and transform the lives of people with MS by offering flexibility and reasonable adjustments.

Sounds impossible? The European Employment Pact (EEP) focuses on dismantling barriers to work. It asks business to look at employment policy, recruitment, equal opportunities, training, working environments and working hours.

At Oyster, we’ve signed up. Through our work we come into contact with many people with long-term conditions. Whether it’s MS, IBD, diabetes, liver disease, the motivation and determination people show to continue a normal and fulfilling working life is inspiring.

Our new office has disabled access but the adjustments we need to consider are not just to the bricks and mortar of our buildings.

Under the Equality Act 2010 and UK employment law, if an employee has a long-term condition they may be covered by the legal definition of disability. If so, as employers we are required to make reasonable adjustments, to make day-to-day working life a little bit easier.

Reasonable adjustments take many forms – there is no set list because every situation is different. For many people only a few minor changes are needed to make working life possible.

As Emma Rogan, EMSP project co-ordinator points out, “Often, all people with MS need are an extra 30 minutes to rest or a desk placed fairly close to the restroom, as most experience invisible symptoms such as fatigue and bladder problems.

“Quite a few places have medical rooms. You could get a recliner for the person with MS and for the woman who is pregnant. The person with MS is like a canary in the coalmine – if you can keep them in work, it will have a ripple effect on all your staff,” she says.

She says when people leave a job, there are recruitment costs, lost training costs and staff morale is damaged.

Emma has had MS for about eight years and works part-time. She explains: “MS has affected my ability to work. My major symptom is fatigue but I am okay if I have 20 to 30 minutes quiet time and a nap at lunch. I go to bed early and watch my diet and exercise.”

“With the Pact, we are trying to get the word out that people can stay in work and continue earning and providing for themselves. The legislation already exists,” she adds.

The EEP was launched in March by the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform (EMJP) at the European Parliament. One strand, Paving the Path to Participation (PPP) promotes policy change, the other, Believe and Achieve, sets up internships.

Those of us who make our living working in health and medical education should be leading by example to stop the ill-health-related brain drain - sign up today!


Sophie's blog

Published on: January 8, 2016