Working with arthritis

People shouldn’t just expect to put up with arthritis, says Tracey Loftis.

A new year traditionally brings new opportunities.    
However, according to our recent poll, one in five people in Great Britain are worried they won’t be fit enough to continue working in 2017. 
And it seems many of us are ‘putting up and shutting up’ about how we’ll manage at work. Many of the people we questioned (39 per cent) don’t feel confident discussing their health with their employer, and a third of people with a long term condition such as arthritis felt their colleagues don’t understand the impact of their condition.
We’ve released these statistics to launch our ‘Work Matters to Me’ campaign. We’re calling for the government to better support people living with long term conditions such as arthritis, so that they can find and remain in suitable work.
As physiotherapists know, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain are the number one cause of pain, disability and workplace sickness absence in the UK. 
Arthritis affects 10 million people in the UK, and yet only 60 per cent of people living with musculoskeletal conditions are in work.   
Arthritis can cause extreme pain, stiffness and functional limits that can make everyday tasks such as sitting, standing, commuting and typing difficult. Symptoms can also fluctuate, making planning ahead problematic. Yet despite these challenges, many people with arthritis want to work, and could have greater opportunity to do so if they had access to the necessary support. 
Our campaign is urging people with arthritis to speak out and share their experiences of work in response to the government’s consultation on Work, Health and Disability, which was launched in October.

We’re asking for specific changes from government to support people with arthritis, including:  

To help people with arthritis remain in work:
  • More funding and better promotion of the access to work scheme for employees and employers, to get help with the costs of work adaptations to enable people with arthritis maintain workplace health, and assist with the cost of fares to work if someone can’t use public transport.
To support people with arthritis when they are trying to find work:
  • Tailoring the government’s new personal support package specifically for people with arthritis; including ensuring work coaches and disability employment advisors receive training on working with people with arthritis. 
Please share your experiences of working with people with arthritis as a physiotherapist.  Add your voice to our open letter asking the government to deliver better employment support for people with arthritis who want the opportunity to remain in and find work. 
  • Tracey Loftis is head of policy and public affairs at Arthritis Research UK
Tracey Loftis Head of policy and public affairs at Arthritis Research UK

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