All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for July 2003

Legal counsel

Meriel Schindler,head of the employment group at solicitors Withers LLP, answers your questions,3605,996558,00.html

Saturday July 12, 2003
The Guardian

This is a dilemma for many people with progressive or recurring conditions.Your condition probably amounts to a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA).

This means that, provided your employer has at least 15 employees, you will benefit from the protection of the DDA.(After October 1,2004, the DDA will apply to all employers.) The DDA makes it unlawful to dismiss a person (or otherwise treat them less favourably) because of their disability, unless there is a good reason.

It also requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to any working arrangements which cause the disabled person significant problems.

Strictly speaking, you do not need to tell your employer about your condition until there is a health and safety risk. However, if you start suffering from symptoms that affect your performance, or if you want your employer to take steps to accommodate your condition, you would be wise to own up to your disability.

Your employer will then be in no doubt that it needs to bear in mind the DDA. If you do decide not to disclose details of your condition now, you run the risk that later your employer will be upset that you "misled" it by completing the questionnaire inaccurately.

However, only a brave or foolish employer would dismiss you, or subject you to disciplinary action, for this.

Check your staff handbook and contract to see if such a policy exists, and what exactly it says.If there is a policy,consider whether the employer has made exceptions in the past.If they have, they might not be able to enforce it against you now.

If the policy puts you at a disadvantage because you are a woman, this may be sex discrimination.For example, if it provides for the more junior person (you)to be dismissed,this might put women at a disadvantage,because more women than men may be in junior positions.

Also,consider why your employer might not want you to have such a relationship. They might be worried that you will behave unprofessionally at work. You may wish to reassure them that you will not.

Ultimately, however, you are not obliged to discuss your personal life if you don't want to.

Copyright © 2003, Guardian Newspapers Limited