A recent BBC Radio 4 programme met with Arthritis sufferers to discuss their different experiences whilst working with the condition, and the effect it’s had on their lives outside of the office.
The Government wants us to stay in work for longer than our predecessors, which inevitably means that more and more people will be expected to work, despite a disability. Currently, the state pension age for myself (a 25 year old female), is 68 years old. It’s a dreaded thought to think that I have another 48 years of working life ahead of me. But what about for people who suffer from a painful condition such as Arthritis or Fibromyalgia? How will the increased retirement age affect them?
Job choices are limited
1 in 6 people are affected by Arthritis, a condition characterised by inflammation and pain in the joints. The pain makes it difficult to carry out a manual job. Arthritis sufferer Reena (part of the BBC radio 4 programme), originally a nurse working night shifts in a nursing home, was left with no choice but to leave her nursing career in favour of a desk job that was less physically demanding.
But it’s not just the typical physical labour that’s an issue for Arthritis sufferers. Arthritic fingers and hands make it extremely difficult to use a standard keyboard and mouse, something that Reena feels could have been improved at her new job by simply purchasing different computer equipment. After an environment assessment and no action over the next year, Reena was forced to take early retirement due to her Arthritis.
Arthritis UK has revealed that there are currently 600,000 people with Arthritis who are missing out on work opportunities. Furthermore, 4/10 people are not comfortable discussing their health with their employer and 1/10 will not disclose a condition to their employer through fear of being treated differently or even losing their job.
The ‘Access to Work’ Scheme
The Arthritis Research UK website is full of information about working with a health condition and what we are entitled to, by law, from our employers.
It’s important to help raise awareness and spread the word about companies that are helping disabled people in the workplace. Companies that allow flexibility when it comes to working hours or working from home, and companies that do everything they can to help their employers.
The aim is to narrow the disability - employment gap by a half. This means 1 million people going back in to the workplace, which at the current rate, would take 200 years.
If you’re an Arthritis sufferer and are still able to work with an employer who puts your health first, you can ask them to encourage other companies to do the same. Of course, some chronic pain conditions and illnesses mean it is not possible to work at all, but the option should be there for everybody and workplaces should be welcoming and understanding.