Tag Archives: discrimination

MS, DLA And Work….

MS, DLA and WorkLet’s get one thing straight. DLA is not an out-of-work benefit. In fact, it helps many people with MS stay in work.

The Government and media’s growing focus on ‘fairness for taxpayers’ leads many to believe that disabled people are a separate group who contribute nothing to society.

A Freedom of Information request, published in August this year, stated that the number of working age people receiving DLA is 1,839,000, of which the number of those in employment is 386,000 (21%). There are 127,000 people living with MS in the UK with just 50% of them claiming some form of DLA (63,680).

Working with a variable and unpredictable illness is difficult enough in a recession-hit economy and with hardening, right-wing attitudes towards anyone disabled, it’s no wonder the figures for those with MS in employment are so shocking:

  • Fact – more than 75% of those with MS say their condition has impacted their employment and career opportunities.
  • Fact – up to 80% of people with MS stop working within 15 years of the onset of the condition.
  • Fact – up to 44% of people with MS retire early due to their condition (the European average is 35%).
  • Fact – people with MS lose an average of 18 working years.

As DLA is phased out and replaced with PIP, people with MS will be forced to submit to humiliating re-assessments to check that we are indeed still living with a degenerative, incurable illness. Note the word ‘incurable’. Perhaps the Department of Work and Pensions should be renamed the Department of Miracles?

Working with MS means coping with reduced dexterity, cognitive impairment, limitations in mobility and overwhelming fatigue, among many other symptoms. Coupled with some employers lack of knowledge and understanding of MS and it’s easy to see how staying in the workplace can seem like an uphill struggle.

I’m fortunate. After a hideous year of relentless bullying by my previous employer and colleagues which ultimately led to me being sacked for having MS, I now work for someone who has taken time to learn about the condition yet is also aware of the strengths I can bring to my job.

DLA can make a real difference to people – just ask David Cameron, our venerable Prime Minister. The multi-millionaire (and son of millionaires and son-in-law of millionaires) once claimed it too…

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Job Hunting Just Got Uglier…

ugly bagOh marvelous. As if job hunting with a disability in a recession isn’t hard enough, beautifulpeople.com launched their own recruitment service last month, an offshoot of their dating agency for people who are beautiful and (boy, do they) know it. Really.

40,000 members have already signed up and last week 60 employers posted vacancies in a single 48-hour period. What hope is there for the rest of us? I may as well rip up my CV, stick a paper bag over my head and find a job peeling sacks of potatoes in my local chip shop.

There is an interesting interview with the Beautiful Fran, a member who claims ‘a slick of tinted moisturiser and some light eye make-up are all the products I need to ensure I look beautiful.’ Well, I’ve had a look at her photo and I’ve seen less make-up on a drag queen, but who am I to judge?

Fran boldly states that ‘looks now play a part in every profession.’ A sweeping, untrue comment, but then this is the same woman who also says that ‘it’s a fact that women judge each other on their appearance.’ Oh really? You might do that, love, but in the real world, it’s a fact that most of us quite simply don’t.

What really annoys me though is when she says, ‘…women were obviously jealous of me (in an office) and they would say nasty things behind my back – and even sometimes to my face.’ In my humble opinion, I would say this happened more because of her arrogant attitude and the way she interacts with other women rather than her perceived beauty. If she thinks that’s discrimination, what on earth is she doing joining a website that proudly and blatantly discriminates? Workplace bullying is a serious problem and having been through it myself for a year, I find it insulting that she even mentions this.

I don’t think I’ve been hit too badly with the ugly stick, but when I go for job interviews I hope I can convey a passion and knowledge for the role rather than worrying if I’ve got hair on my lip gloss. Looks fade but insight and wisdom only grow over the years. Fran’s got an answer to this though. She’s considering Botox…

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Speaking Out…

Working With MS

Four out of five people with MS become unemployed within 10 years of diagnosis.

One in four people with MS of working age are employed, compared to three out of four of the wider UK population. 

Shocking facts, considering MS is the most common neurological disorder among young adults and is most often diagnosed between the ages of 20  and 40.

With this in mind, and my experience of having been sacked after my own diagnosis, I attended the ‘Working With MS’ conference organised by the Multiple Sclerosis Society Cymru in Cardiff on Saturday. My leg was still excruciatingly painful so I took a walking stick, dosed myself up on painkillers and put a brave face on.

I had been invited to sit on a four-person panel of people with varying experiences in the workplace and we would each talk about how MS had affected our work. I’m not a public speaker by any stretch of the imagination and I was panicking. I used to hate standing up in school to talk about ‘What I Did On Holiday.’ I go bright red in the face, completely forget what I’m talking about and start gibbering nonsense.

I needn’t have worried, it went well (I hope). I am passionate about encouraging people not to accept bullying or discrimination at work. I was bullied for over a year, a sustained campaign to force me to resign. When I didn’t, I was sacked. I was coping with this alongside going through the whole MS diagnostic process and the combination of the two nearly drove me over the edge.

It was without a doubt the most difficult and soul-destroying time in my life and I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. With incredible support I started tribunal proceedings and won my case.

The conference was an excellent source of information, but we still have a long way to go to encourage people with MS to stay in work, to ask for adaptations and to educate employers. We have a lot of talent between us and it would be a travesty to let that go to waste…

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I Fought Back…And Won

Actually, I canI was sacked from my job last October for having MS, preceded by a vicious campaign of bullying and harrassment which almost drove me over the edge. At the same time, I was struggling to cope with my diagnosis and had also just been through Alemtuzumab treatment in the summer.

The day I was sacked,  I went home in shock. I was at my lowest ebb. The drip-drip effect of the bullying had left me sapped of confidence, drained of energy and incapable of any positive thinking. The sacking was the culmination of a truly horrific year. How anyone can bully a person going through a diganosis of MS is beyond me and the cruelty of it still astounds me.

I decided to accept my fate and leave it at that. But then I got angry, then furious. Was I really just going to walk away? Luckily, I still had one tiny scrap of fight left in me and so began a long legal process.

I am over the moon to report that I have now won my case. The matter is settled and it is time to move on, with my dignity and pride restored.

Bullying at work can be insidious. It is not always immediately obvious. It can start insignificantly and like an abusive partner, can slowly erode your confidence, your judgement and your rational thinking. When the bullying then escalates, you feel too undermined and isolated to fight back.

Bullying someone with MS (or any other serious illness) is cowardly. The bullying may come from a position of strength, from their status in work, but it is only carried out by weak people who take delight in hurting others who are already in pain.

I have fought a long, exhausting battle and was close to giving up along the way, such was the hold these people still had over me in my mind. It’s only thanks to family, friends, fellow MSers and a fabulous lawyer that I got to this point.

If you are in the same position I was, don’t accept it. You are worth more than that. Keep notes of every incident no matter how small, every date. Surround yourself  with a strong network and most importantly, realise that it is not your fault.

It’s a beautiful feeling to wake up every morning knowing I am no longer bullied. I am a worthy person and I will go on to better things. As they say, success is the best revenge.

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