Working with arthritis Arthritis Care’s Working with Arthritis section has been created to give you essential information that will help you manage your condition in the workplace.

This is a condensed version. To read the full version, download our Working with Arthritis booklet here.

In this section:

Finding and applying for work

Thinking about work

Before you begin applying for work, it is important to think carefully about what you would like to do, and also about what job or working environment might best suit your abilities. If you are looking for a new job, or needing to develop or adapt your current role, it may be useful to consider the following questions:

  • What things am I good at doing?
  • What skills have I developed, both in and outside work?
  • What activities cause me discomfort and pain that lasts more than a couple of hours or cause me to lose sleep?
  • What would help me minimise or avoid these sources of discomfort and pain?
  • How can I pace myself properly?
  • How can I relax effectively?
  • How can I make sure I sleep well?

When looking for work, a good place to start is your local JobCentre or JobCentre Plus. These are official government agencies offering advice and support for work, as well as information on benefits. If you are considered disabled, you will be referred to a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA), who can help to identify your skills and assess how arthritis might affect your work.

In Northern Ireland, help is available at JobCentres/Jobs and Benefits Offices

Alternatives to full-time work

If you decide that full-time work is not suitable for you because of the way arthritis impacts your life, there are a few alternatives.

Flexible working : Some employers are happy to allow individual staff members to begin work earlier or later in the day, or to work from home. All employees are entitled to ask for flexible working.

Job-sharing: This is one form of flexible working, whereby two employees share the responsibilities of one full-time job. Some jobs are advertised as job shares or you can suggest the idea to your employer.

Part-time work: Anyone working fewer hours than a full-time worker is considered to be part time. You might work three days a week, or five days a week but afternoons only. Part-time workers are entitled to the same employment terms as full-time workers (on a pro-rata, or proportionate, basis).

Self-employment - Working for yourself allows much greater flexibility in how, when, where and for how long you work. If you decide to start your own business, you can still benefit from various government programmes, such as Access to Work. A JobCentre adviser can give you more information.

Disclosing your arthritis

You might be worried that you will not get a job – or even an interview – if you tell a potential employer about your arthritis. You may just feel embarrassed and not want to draw attention to yourself or ask for help.

An employer must not ask you questions about health or disability, including about your sickness absence record, as part of the recruitment process. The only exception would be if an employer needs to know whether or not you can carry out a vital function of the job with reasonable adjustments in place. You have a duty to tell an employer about a health condition if it might present a health and safety risk to yourself or other work colleagues.

Remember, you can only be guaranteed protection by equal opportunities policies and the Equality Act if your employer is aware of your disability. In the long term, being open about having arthritis can create a more supportive and sustainable working life. Disclosing your arthritis may also help to explain any gaps in your education or employment on your application or CV.