Employers will need to become more aware of the needs of staff with neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), multiple sclerosis (MS) and migraine as the working population gets older, a report has recommended.
Organisations will need to develop or strengthen their existing policies to better support staff with such conditions; educate staff around the capabilities of those with AD, MS or migraine to remove negative perceptions; and consider introducing minor workplace adjustments that will help staff stay in work longer.
Part of this will involve occupational health, HR and line managers working closely to find effective solutions to support employees with, or those caring for somebody with, a neurological disorder, according to The Economist and Novartis’s The workplace response to neurological conditions report.
It highlighted that AD prevalence is expected to almost double every 20 years as life expectancy increases, with many people with the condition receiving their diagnosis while they are still at work.
Staff are more likely to experience migraine or MS than AD, as people tend to receive an MS diagnosis when they are 20 to 40 years old and migraine is a more of a brief and occasional condition that affects a greater proportion of employees. Sixty-one per cent of people who received an MS diagnosis in 2016 continued working, while 18% of under-65s who were told they had dementia stayed in the workplace.
The report found staff with these three conditions were more likely than others to remove themselves from the workforce or worry that their diagnosis would prevent or delay their career progression.
It said improved collaboration between HR, OH and the employee would help to identify how their condition might affect their role and determine the adjustments needed to help them remain in work. Adjustments in this context could include lowered lighting for people who suffered from migraine; moving a desk closer to the toilets or in a quiet corner of the office for someone with MS; or sound barriers to minimise distractions for someone with AD.
Elizabeth Sukkar, editor of thought leadership at The Economist said: “Minor adjustments can be easily introduced in the workplace, costing very little to the employer, and this can mean so much to people living with these conditions and their carers, so that they can have fruitful and productive working lives.
“Employers benefit from having more diverse workplaces, as so many women are affected by these conditions. They will also see increased productivity and a boost in employee morale.”