Arthritis is the number one cause of pain, disability and working days lost, according to Arthritis Research UK, which highlighted the issue to John Spellar MP at a recent parliamentary briefing. Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions like back pain affect one in six of us.
Musculoskeletal conditions cause pain, stiffness and fatigue that can make every day work tasks such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, and typing difficult. They are the leading cause of workplace absence in the UK, causing 32.4 million sick days each year.
Only 60% of working age people with a musculoskeletal condition are in work, compared to 80% among those without a health condition or a disability. This ‘arthritis work gap’ means that 600,000 people with arthritis are currently missing out on the opportunity to work.
Now, following the Government’s Improving Lives consultation on employment support for disabled people, John Spellar is calling on the Government to ensure that people with arthritis have the support to stay at work for longer:
“It’s clear how enormous the impact of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions is on our local communities. Over 50,000 residents are living with back pain, a leading cause of sickness absence, in Sandwell right now – 16% of local people.
“The ability to work is something that we often take for granted, but I’ve learnt today that for those living with arthritis this can be difficult. But with the right support and flexibility many people are able to work.’
“That’s why I’m supporting Arthritis Research UK’s ‘Work Matters to Me’ campaign, putting this vital issue on the map. The Government must ensure that there is a level playing field so that people with arthritis who are able to work have the right support to remain and return to work.”
Dr Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer at Arthritis Research UK, said:
“I’m delighted that John Spellar MP is supporting our campaign to give people with arthritis the freedom from their condition in employment, enabling them to live their lives to the full.
“The current situation for people living with the daily pain of arthritis is untenable. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain are the number one cause for workplace sickness absence in the UK.
“Our retirement age has increased and we’re an ageing working population, so even more people are going to be living with the pain and unpredictability of arthritis, and face an uncertain working future.
“But with the right kind of support and job; work can benefit your mental and physical health as well as your financial position.
“We need to see Government action to address the employment needs of people with long term conditions such as arthritis, so that they have the right support and opportunity to maintain their freedom and quality of life.”