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Ready to work

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

21 June 2011

Work prospects of up to 100 000 people in the UK are affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). Thousands more stay out of the labour market to care for a relative with MS. 

Ready to work: Meeting the employment and career aspirations of people with multiple sclerosis, a new report from The Work Foundation published today argues that more can be done to reduce the unnecessary burden of MS on individuals’ lives and careers.

Our research shows that many people with MS are willing and able to work. However, due to the unpredictable and fluctuating nature of MS, many of its symptoms are ‘hidden’, making it more difficult to some employers to understand the impact of the disease on an individual’s workability. This means that people with MS may be reluctant to disclose their condition early on, delaying access to interventions that can significantly improve their ability to stay in work. As a result up to 44 per cent of people with MS retire early, compared to the European average of 35 per cent.

Raising awareness is key to enabling individuals with MS to live fulfilling and productive lives. Simple interventions, such as flexible working or adjustments in the workplace can help to cope with physical symptoms such as fatigue and difficulties with writing, balance or walking, as well as cognitive symptoms affecting memory or concentration. The Fit Note and its focus on the capacity of individuals rather than incapacity is one of the ways to support individuals with MS to realise their work potential.

Individuals with MS should not feel at risk of losing their jobs when disclosing their condition. Being the best experts of their health, they should cooperate with employers and health care professionals to remain in quality jobs longer. With appropriate government and more coordinated action, the majority of people with MS who are able to work could be supported to do so.

Retaining individuals with MS in their jobs and supporting their return to work would save up to £66.7m of annual cost to welfare and prevent people from missing out on an average of 18 years of their working lives. Work has been shown to assist recovery and, more importantly, provide a sense of purpose, dignity and social connectivity for people with long-term conditions.

Ksenia Zheltoukhova is one of the authors of the report.


More information on living with MS is available at: 
MS Trust:

MS Society:
Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre:

Shift MS