Your top 4 questions on work and Parkinson’s

In this feature, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about work and Parkinson’s.

What can make working life easier for me if I have Parkinson’s?

If you’re having problems doing your job or parts of your job, the first thing to do is to talk to your manager. If you have a condition like Parkinson’s, by law your employer must help you overcome any problems you have by making changes to your working arrangements. These changes are called ‘reasonable adjustments’. They may include:

  • making changes to the building you work in
  • making changes to your role
  • changing or offering more flexibility with your working hours
  • modifying equipment you use, such as computer adaptations, or providing a large button telephone or adjustable chair

Try to explain which part of your job is causing you a problem and what that problem is. For example, you may have difficulties travelling to work on public transport during rush hour because you can’t get a seat and find it hard to stand for long periods of time. Or you may have problems using a computer keyboard because of a tremor.

Should I tell my colleagues about my condition?

It's entirely up to you whether you tell your colleagues about your Parkinson's. But the important thing to know is that you don't have to tell your colleagues if you don't want to.

You may want to think about things like how your condition may affect you and your colleagues in the workplace, how noticeable your symptoms are and what your relationship is like with the people you work with. 

You may wish to discuss your decision with someone you trust outside of work, or speak to others, with similar experiences.

If you do decide to tell your colleagues about your condition, you may like to spend some time thinking about what you want to tell them and how you want to do this. You may want to tell them about Parkinson's in detail or you may prefer to be less specific and just let them know you have a health condition.

You may find it helpful to talk to your manager about how to tell your workmates. For example, you can tell them yourself or ask your manager to do it for you.

Should I tell my manager about my condition?

You don’t have to tell your manager unless your symptoms may cause a health and safety risk either to you or to someone else. For example, if you were a scaffolder, your employer may need to know that you have Parkinson’s as it might affect your ability to climb scaffolding and work at heights.

You would also need to tell your employer if you wanted to request a reasonable adjustment. You wouldn’t need to tell them you had Parkinson’s specifically, if you didn’t want to, but they would need to know how your disability makes it difficult for you to do your job.

When should I stop working?

You may start thinking about giving up work earlier than you would have done if you had not been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This may be because working with Parkinson’s is becoming too difficult or you would prefer to concentrate on other aspects of your life.

If you’re thinking about stopping working it may help to consider the following:

  • Don’t rush into a decision. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your symptoms, you may just need changes to your medication regime – and to take some time to adjust to this.
  • Think about how stopping work will affect you emotionally and practically. Talk to your family or friends and get advice.
  • Look carefully at your finances, including your pension, benefits and savings. Keep in mind that any benefits you get from work will end. It may be helpful to seek advice from an independent financial adviser or expert.
  • Speak to your employer or trade union to make sure you’re leaving on the right terms, and at the best time. Some companies encourage their employees to attend training courses on preparing for retirement.
  • Consider the alternatives, such as working part time or volunteering.

Read more about work and Parkinson's, including working as well as caring for someone with Parkinson's.