In May 2016, European Young Patients Group, an initiative representing young patients from the European Patients' Forum (EPF) and the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform (EMSP), organised a workshop in the framework of the European Youth Event (EYE) 2016 in Strasbourg that corresponded with one of the five main programme themes titled, Exclusion or Access: Crackdown on Youth Unemployment.
The physical and emotional symptoms of chronic conditions, together with social stigma and attitude, create significant barriers to young patients in the job market. With appropriate support, they, like all enthusiastic young people, can be assets for employers. Through interactive discussion, creative expression, education and open dialogue, the workshop aimed to challenge expectations and inaccurate perceptions about the abilities of young people with chronic conditions, tackle societal beliefs and stereotypes of individuals with chronic conditions, stimulate discussion to explore concrete solutions and develop practical actions for young people and their allies accessing employment and steer change to ensure young patients benefit from equal opportunities and treatment at work. By addressing these specific objectives, the workshop was to ultimately raise awareness of the extra burdens faced by young people with chronic conditions transitioning from education to employment, as well as bringing public attention to the stigma and discrimination that exists at both the recruitment stage and in relation to employees disclosing their health conditions. It also was to compliment and strengthen the EPF and EMSP's wider initiatives on tackling the multiple forms of discrimination faced by patients with chronic conditions.
The workshop demonstrated how many issues surrounding young people with chronic conditions transitioning into the labour market are still prevalent. The expectation of discrimination and stigma in the workplace, along with the unwillingness to disclose their condition when applying for a job for fear of rejection are confounded by young patients' experiences of negative employer attitudes. Moreover, the concept of quota systems and giving people with chronic conditions and/or disabilities preference among applicants for certain jobs possibly suggests that they are employed because they have a chronic condition and/or disability, not because of their abilities. This unambiguous form of positive discrimination also affects how young people manage information about their health. They feel forced to share about their condition to get an interview, however by doing so they risk being subjected to negative reactions in the interview or at the workplace.
Young people with chronic conditions have a great deal to contribute to the workplace and more action should be taken to encourage and support employers with hiring them. Training and resources should be provided to managers and employees to raise awareness of the impact that chronic conditions can have on an individual, and how they can be assisted through small adjustments or specific care requirements. Employees should not assume what someone can or cannot do and how their condition affects them, therefore a place for an open discussion should be created. In addition, where quota systems apply, they should be re-evaluated and designed to recruit young patients on merit, in competition with other workers without a chronic condition and/or disability.
Disclosure of Interest None declared