Migraine sufferers report work discrimination

  • Joanne McCarthy

The number of migraine sufferers reporting discrimination in the workplace has risen dramatically in the last few months, according to the Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI).

The MAI is attributing this rise to the continuing recession. As employers try to cut costs by reducing the workforce, people with migraine, who are forced to take sick days, have become a vulnerable group, the MAI has asserted.

“Up until August we only had occasional contact from migraineurs who felt discriminated against at work because of their condition,” said Donna Walsh, information officer at the MAI.

“However, since then we have received four formal complaints and many more queries on our helpline service about employment rights and migraine at work,” she added.

Migraine costs the Irish economy as much as €252 million a year, due to the combination of lost workdays and reduced productivity. According to the MAI, in any given day in Ireland more than 13,000 people are suffering from migraine, the majority of whom form part of the workplace.

Although migraine is classified as one of the top 20 causes of disability worldwide by the World Health Organization, it is often dismissed as ‘just a headache’ by non-sufferers, the MAI said.

The Employment Equality Act puts a duty on employers to make ‘reasonable accommodation’ for people with disabilities. This means that employers are obliged to adapt workplaces as effectively and practically as possible for the person with the disability, provided that the cost is not disproportionate.  

The MAI also advises sufferers to be upfront about their condition from the beginning.

“An employer is obviously going to be less sympathetic to a sick absence when they don’t know that the employee has a pre-existing condition. By telling your colleagues about your condition, you can create a support system for yourself when you need to miss work or your productivity is done because of an attack,” said Ms Walsh.

The MAI has also just launched a Migraine Corporate Outreach service – an educational programme on migraine management – directed at both employers and employees. For more information, see www.migraine.ie.

For support and help in minimising the impact of migraine on sufferers, see our award-winning site, www.migrainemonitor.ie.

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