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World Arthritis Day 2010

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Publication Date: 12 October 2010

Working with Arthritis

Working with Arthritis

Arthritis Care is being backed by UK companies, including telecoms giant BT, in a campaign on World Arthritis Day (12 October) to challenge firms to improve the working conditions of thousands of employees with arthritis.

Arthritis is the biggest cause of physical disability in the UK, affecting up to 10 million people. It is estimated to cost the UK economy more than £7 billion. Employers can expect 1 person in 6 in their workforce to be affected by the condition.  

The charity is calling on employers across the country to show a commitment to its Employers’ Pledge, which covers more than 190,000 employees to date. The Pledge is a statement of commitment which sets out suggestions of best practice. It serves to raise employers’ awareness of how arthritis affects people in the workplace and to encourage them to make positive changes to the work lives of their employees.

Employers who have already signed the Pledge include BT, the Royal Mail Group, and the Work Foundation.

As part of its campaign Arthritis Care has written to the editors of newspapers to highlight the impact of arthritis in the workplace. The charity has also sent letters to businesses and organisations across the UK to urge them to sign the Pledge, enclosing a copy of Working with Arthritis, a booklet which provides information on how people with arthritis can take steps to stay in or return to work, along with tips on what employers can do to support them.

BT has made significant improvements to ensure that people with arthritis are properly supported at work.

BT’s examples of best practice include:

  • Scoring 97% and reaching joint first in the Employers Forum on Disability (EFD) Disability Standard 2009 benchmark – this enables organisations to accurately measure their performance on disability in every way it affects the business.
  • Helping over 600 BT employees to continue working by making reasonable adjustments to their job in 2010.
  • Giving a Working with Arthritis master class using BT’s Event Call technology, with expert speakers from Arthritis Care in 2009.

Helen Chipchase, BT's disability and employment expert, added: ‘BT is proud to be supporting Arthritis Care’s Employers’ Pledge. This year alone we’ve made reasonable adjustments for over 600 BT people through our enable scheme – which means that we get to retain their skills, abilities and relationships with our customers, so everybody wins.

'We hope many other employers will sign up to the Pledge to show their commitment to improving the working conditions of people with arthritis.’

New findings published by Arthritis Care have found that 34% of people with arthritis who are of ‘working age’ (18-64 years) said they are unable to work due to pain. While 30% of respondents – also of working age – stated that they struggle to cope at work. The survey showed that the more understanding an employer has of arthritis, the less the symptoms of arthritis are made worse by work.

Arthritis Care has said that there is a direct link between an employer’s support for an employee with arthritis and their ability to stay in work. According to previous research by the charity, where bosses fail to offer support – such as flexible working and an accessible environment – employees with arthritis too often end up leaving their jobs.

Neil Betteridge, chief executive of Arthritis Care, said: ‘We are pleased that companies like BT are backing our campaign to urge employers across the country to sign the Pledge. Employers play a key role in improving the working conditions for people with arthritis; our research shows that symptoms of arthritis are minimised the more understanding an employer has of arthritis.’

‘Arthritis Care is committed to working with employers so that they can start to put in place changes that will help employees with arthritis stay at work. We are using World Arthritis Day on 12 October as an opportunity to raise awareness of the Pledge. There is a lot of information that we can offer to employers, including details of our Arthritis Awareness training courses.’

During the week of World Arthritis Day, the charity will offer a special ‘work’ service for anyone with questions about arthritis in the workplace through its Helpline - last year the Helplines received almost 2,000 calls on work and employment issues. This is in addition to the online information available for employers and employees.

The Working with Arthritis booklet provides valuable information for both employers and workers with arthritis. To request a copy of the booklet contact Arthritis Care’s free Helpline on 0808 800 4050 or email Helplines@arthritiscare.org.uk

See our report, Arthritis Hurts – Working Age, which looks at the effects of arthritis pain on people of working age.



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