For MS Patients, Disclosing Condition Increases Job Retention

Patients who told their employer about a multiple sclerosis diagnosis tended to have better odds of remaining employed and had a longer tenure than those who did not.

Patients who told their employer about a multiple sclerosis diagnosis tended to have better odds of remaining employed and had a longer tenure than those who did not.

Patients who tell their employers that they have multiple sclerosis are more likely to remain employed, according to the results of a study published in the June 2014 edition of Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

“The present study examined the importance of disclosure of diagnosis of MS in the workplace, and to our knowledge provides the first empirical confirmation that disclosure to an employer increases job retention,” the researchers wrote.

The odds of a patient with MS remaining employed increased by 1.30 if they told their employer about the condition, researchers found. Participants with more severe disability at the beginning of the study were less likely to be employed by the last year of the study, however, those who worked more hours in the first year of the study were more likely to retain employment.

The methodology behind the study included sending questionnaires on current employment status to participants in the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study during a 3-year period. They received responses from 2144 participants during the first year, with 946 indicating employment. In the second year, researchers received responses from 1861 participants with 673 of them indicating employment. These results were similar in the third year when 2316 patients responded with 673 participants again indicating that they were employed.

During the 3-year period, 87% of participants reported at least 1 MS disclosure to their employers, with 81% disclosing it during the first year, 77% disclosing it during the second year, and 83% disclosing it during the third year.

The researchers also assessed categorical measures of perceived employer attitudes toward MS. Just under half of participants employed in year 3 reported a positive employer attitude toward MS, whereas 27% indicated negative employer attitudes toward the condition. The remaining 31% reported a neutral employer response. 8% of participants reported being terminated due to their condition.

An analysis of the relationship between MS disclosure and job tenure revealed that patients who disclosed their disease status were more likely to have a longer job tenure, typically by 3.35 years.

“Employees who disclose their diagnosis are more likely to be employed, and more likely to be employed for longer periods of time, even after taking level of disability into account,” the researchers wrote. “Such results may indicate that post-disclosure, employees are receiving more assistance with workplace accommodations, social support, and possibly even more effective symptom management that non-disclosing employees.”