Working with MS

Human rights laws in Canada require that employers offer reasonable workplace accommodations to people with disabilities, including people with MS. A workplace accommodation is a change to an employee's working hours, role, responsibilities, or working environment that helps them continue to do their job in spite of a disability. The laws are intended to ensure equal rights in the workplace for people with disabilities.

An accommodation is said to be reasonable if it does not cause "undue hardship" to the employer. Undue hardship is measured both economically and in terms of the health and safety of the workplace. Because this depends on the unique needs of the business and the employee, it is evaluated for each individual situation.

MS symptoms vary widely from person to person, so there are a variety of accommodations that individuals with MS may find helpful in the workplace, including:

  • changes to the physical environment at the workplace. This may include installing an air conditioning unit or fans in the person's work area, relocating the person's workspace closer to the washroom, offering a parking space that's close to the door, adding guard rails for safety, making the work area wheelchair-accessible, or adding an electronic door opener.
  • changes to work schedule or arrangements. For some individuals with MS, reducing the number of hours per week, working regular hours instead of shift work, job sharing, flex time, scheduling rest time during the day, having an assistant, or working from home may reduce fatigue and help them work more productively.
  • using assistive devices or modifying work equipment. Large-print computer displays can be helpful for those with vision problems, voice dictation software can allow people with coordination or muscle weakness problems to continue using a computer, and electronic organizers can help employees with memory problems.
  • reassignment to a different position. If you are no longer able to do your current job but are qualified for another role in the same company, your employer may offer to reassign you (for example, from field work to a desk job). The pay and advancement possibilities will depend on the nature of the new role and may be different from your old role.

Although your employer is required to offer you reasonable workplace accommodations, there are limits to what they can be expected to provide. The accommodation cannot cause the employer undue hardship (as outlined above), and there are some job duties, deemed bona fide occupational requirements (BFOR), where the employer is not required to offer accommodations. BFOR are job duties that are essential to the performance of the job and cannot be modified through accommodations.

Most employers are understanding and willing to work together with their employees to find reasonable workplace solutions. If your employer has refused your request for reasonable workplace accommodations, or is planning to terminate your employment or health benefits, seek legal advice.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: