Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

Government must do more to support people with arthritis to work

Published by Arthritis Research UK | 1 November 2016

The Government has launched a new consultation yesterday (31 October 2016) looking at the employment, health and welfare support available for people with disabilities and long-term conditions such as arthritis.

The Government's Work, health and disability Green Paper includes plans, questions and ideas on a range of issues including:

  • the future of employment support programmes for people with health conditions
  • changes to employment-related benefits
  • the launch of a consultation on Work Capability Assessment reform
  • a review of Statutory Sick Pay and GP fit notes to support workers back into their jobs faster, and for longer
  • encouraging employers to work with their employees with long-term health conditions to stop them from falling out of work.

Our view

Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are the most common health conditions in our workforce, and the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK. Although many people with arthritis want to work, overall they are less likely to be in work than people without a health condition. 

Flexible working practices and the right support can enable people with arthritis to work in a way that is adapted to their needs and skills, but too few people have the help they need.

Our Chief Executive Officer Dr Liam O’Toole said: "We welcome the Government’s recognition of the impact arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions can have on people’s ability to work, and the need for timely access to health, employment and welfare support.

"The cost of treating long-term health conditions that prevent people from working has now reached an estimated £7 billion. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are the biggest cause of workplace absence in the UK, accounting for 30.6 million working days lost in the UK each year.

Today’s Green Paper offers the Government a vital opportunity to address this situation, and better understand and then meet the needs of people with arthritis. We will be examining the details and ensuring that the voices of people with arthritis are heard.

"As the Government has acknowledged, "action, not words" is needed to push back the limits of arthritis. Together, we can make changes that give fuller lives to millions of people with arthritis."

Work Capability Assessment reform

We also welcome the proposal to look at reform of the Work Capability Assessment. We hear time and time again from people with arthritis that the current Work Capability Assessment is not fit for purpose, particularly for people who live with conditions that fluctuate week to week.

It is vital that we see expertise of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions built into any new assessment.

Over the next few months we'll be working to make sure that the voices of people with arthritis are heard as these issues are debated.

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Posted on Tuesday 1st November 2016