A EurActiv Special Report by Henriette Jacobsen notes that, while many people who suffer from multiple sclerosis are highly skilled, 50-60 percent of MS patients can expect to be unemployed after receiving their diagnose,s even though only a little adaptation in the workplace is needed to keep them employed according to recent research. Ms. Jacobson cites metrics indicating that the economic burden of healthcare costs related to brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis increased from €386 billion in 2004 to €798 billion in 2010 across 30 European countries, according to the European Brain Council (EBC), which has pledged to make 2014 the “Year of the Brain in Europe.”
Aside from the drastic increase in healthcare costs, Europe is also losing a highly-educated group of young workers as many lose their jobs shortly after being diagnosed. The article points out that this happens even though employers need only make small adjustments in the workplace in order to hold on to a young employee with MS, noting that 70 percent of Europe’s 600,000 people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
Emma Rogan, who works as a project coordinator at the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform (EMSP) in Ireland, is cited emphasizing that people living with the condition have different symptoms that vary in type as well as severity, which means that some of them at least might be able to work full-time with only small adaptations in their workplace.
“Fatigue is a symptom for many people with multiple sclerosis, me included,” Ms. Rogan is cited saying in an interview. “However, a planned rest period during the day means I continue my work and complete tasks. To facilitate this my employer last year put a reclining chair in the building. For others it’s about having their lunch hours extended so they go home and take a rest.”
Multiple sclerosis is a potentially disabling disease, with more than one million people affected indirectly through their role as caregivers and family members, according to the EMSP data references by Ms. Jacobson, who also notes that younger people between 20 and 40 are the ones most often diagnosed with MS, and women are diagnosed twice as often as men. Ms. Rogan, who was diagnosed in her 20s, points out that keeping an employee with multiple sclerosis at work isn’t only good for the person concerned, observing that “When word gets out that you are an employer who takes such considerations, it’s great for business and it opens up a whole new market.”
The article cites self-employment is another way for people with MS to get to do what they are passionate about, and how setting up their own enterprises can be funded needs public examination and discussion.
However, the article says EurActiv has asked several members of the European Parliament who have dealt with issues related to multiple sclerosis and employment in the past, what more could be done in the EU to keep young people with multiple sclerosis employed in the EU, and all declined to comment.
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For the full EurActiv Special Report visit here:
The European Brain Council
European Multiple Sclerosis Platform