Working through arthritis: the need for reasonable adjustments

Picture of NRAS report titled Work MattersOften considered a disease of later life, many people of working age are adversely affected by the condition, says a report by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS).

Muscoskeletal conditions and mental health illnesses are the second highest cause of work-related illness in the UK, according to government statistics. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) affects three times as many women as men. 

The NRAS held an event, attended by AbilityNet, at The King’s Fund to raise awareness of the impact RA and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis can have on people in the workplace. 

Based on a 2017 survey, the report shows the fragility of work for people living with RA. Over 50% of respondents said they’d find it hard to continue working in the next 12-months if their condition changed. 

The importance of making reasonable workplace adjustments

The top five reported challenges were a demanding role, RA symptoms, no reasonable adjustments, commuting to work and a lack of understanding by an employer and/or a colleague. 

The report shows that the majority of people with RA had spoken to their employer about it (96.7%). Of those 78.2% disclosed almost immediately after diagnosis, 12.5% within 6-months and 2.8% within 6-12 months. 

ClearTalentsOnDemand helps you identify reasonable workplace adjustments to help broker a conversation with your employer

In spite of this, 38.7% said that their employer didn’t understand the condition, which highlights the need to raise awareness. In addition, fewer than 30% of working age participants had received help from an Occupational Health Advisor. 

A majority of people rated their work performance as “somewhat or much worse” compared to their performance prior to diagnosis. A feeling of underperforming due to RA can negatively impact individuals’ mental health, saying that “if people feel that they are not performing as well as they did prior to their diagnosis this situation is likely to contribute to anxiety and a lack of mental wellbeing, which will impact both the individual and the employer.”

Read personal experiences of working through the pain of arthritis

Picture of leaflets including those from AbilityNet on a table at the Kings Fund eventMore information on Arthritis

AbilityNet attended an NRAS event in October at the King’s Fund to share details of how we can help people working with arthritis, and other long-term conditions. 

• Top five tips for managing arthritis in the workplace

• View our webinar on accessibility and arthritis

• Read our factsheet on computing and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

• Read our factsheet on computing and osteoarthritis

• Find out how to adapt your computer for living with arthritis