Should we compensate Work-Aggravated Migraine?

Migraine is usually a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on 1 side of the head. It causes moderate to severe headaches, with attacks lasting between four and 72 hours with variable frequency. It is a common health condition, affecting around 1 in every 5 women and around 1 in every 15 men, and more common in young adults aged 30 to 45. In Malaysia, the prevalence of migraine is about 9 per cent.

Since that most of the people affected are young adults and are in their productive ages having. Can workers with migraines work and be productive? Can migraine be aggravated by workplace activities? Will the workers be compensated for migraines due to workplace activities?

In an interview with Code Blue Galencenter, Dr Marzuki Isahak tried to answer all those questions. He said migraine is currently not listed as an occupational disease in Malaysia, but it can be categorised as a work-aggravated disease.

He explained that a work-aggravated disease is an illness that one already suffers before starting work, but whose condition worsened after work. This is different from an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are any diseases acquired solely from the workplace, this includes occupational asthma due to exposure to chemicals in the workplace or musculoskeletal injury from due to lifting at work.

Since migraine is multifactorial, it is difficult to determine the sole cause of migraine. Some of the activities at work may aggravate the condition, e.g., very high workplace demand and lack of supervisor support. Workplace stress also can lead to a migraine attack.

However, migraine can also be triggered by diet, e.g., high content of chocolate. Other stress can also aggravate migraines, e.g., domestic stress or stress in a traffic jam.

So it is difficult to clearly link migraine to only stimuli from the workplace, this makes it difficult to diagnose migraine as an occupational disease.

He continued that currently, under the Employees Social Security Act 1969, which is managed by Social Security Organisation, does not compensate for work-aggravated diseases. This is different from our neighbour down south, where work-aggravated diseases such as work-aggravated asthma are compensated.

Dr Marzuki urged employers to be more supportive towards workers with migraines, such as by giving time breaks, short naps, and sick leave.

He said that under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workplace is safe so there’s no occurrence of occupational disease or work-aggravated disease.

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