Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – employers urged to help affected individuals

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Canada has the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the world

While Canada has the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the world, we may not be doing enough in terms of providing appropriate workplace accommodations and income supports for this population and their caregivers, according to a new report by The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC).

“When people living with multiple sclerosis or their caregivers are unemployed or underemployed, it is often detrimental to their health and financial situation. It also has a larger overall economic impact due to lost productivity,” said Thy Dinh, Director, Health Economics, The Conference Board of Canada. “Increasing workforce participation of individuals living with MS and their caregivers would benefit not only the individual’s well-being, but also provide significant benefits to employers, government, and society as a whole.”


  • Canada has the highest prevalence of MS in the world. As well as being an important health issue, this creates significant economic costs for individuals and the wider economy, as much as $2.8 billionannually.
  • Productivity loss in individuals living with MS is estimated to account for about one-third of the total economic burden of MS.
  • Proper supports could ensure that people living with MS effectively participate in the labour force, while creating economic benefits for employers and governments.
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Without employment, individuals with MS or their caregivers are vulnerable to economic hardship, social exclusion, and reduced self-confidence. Individuals with MS who are willing and able to work can do so as long as the proper supports are in place. Helping employees with MS talk about staying in their jobs is also beneficial to employers, as it increases the retention of skilled employees, while boosting productivity.

The economic impact of MS is estimated to be as much as $2.8 billion annually. This includes health care costs and productivity losses. About one-third of the total economic burden of MS can be attributed to productivity loss due to unemployment and reduced workforce participation of individuals living with MS and their caregivers.

Released ahead of World MS Day, the report, Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace: Supporting Successful Employment Experiences, identifies approaches that individuals, employers, and governments can use to support quality of life (QoL) and successful employment for people affected by MS. To properly address MS in the workplace, the study recommends:

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Individuals with MS and their caregivers

  • Consider early communication of diagnosis to employers; and
  • Ask for and access available services and resources.


  • Create a culture of trust and openness, where employees feel comfortable talking about their symptoms at the early stages of the disease. Understand individual’s capacity and needs; and
  • Offer meaningful workplace accommodations, insurance plans, and benefits (e.g., drug coverage, physical therapy, occupational therapy).


  • Improve employment insurance benefits to support intermittent work capacity;
  • Improve access to social services;
  • Create a better support system for unpaid caregivers; and
  • Fund more research, collect more data, and evaluate.

There are approximately 68,000 women and 25,000 men with MS in Canada, representing about 300 cases per 100,000 people. This is almost two times higher than in the U.S., the country with the second-highest number of cases at 135 cases of MS per 100,000 population.

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The findings in this report will be presented in a webinar Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace: Achieving Successful Employment Experiences on May 30th.

The report, Multiple Sclerosis in the Workplace: Supporting Successful Employment Experiences, was sponsored by Roche Canada and The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health (CASHC) and contains insights from the MS in the Workplace Steering Committee, which includes the MS Society of Canada, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work and Roche Canada.

Launched in 2011, CASHC is a program of research and dialogue, investigating various aspects of Canada’shealth care challenge, including the financial, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system sustainable. – CNW

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