Work Survey 2017
11th October marked the launch in parliament of our new report ‘Work Matters’. We were delighted that Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work took the time to come and speak at our launch.
The report summarises data from a survey we conducted during June/July in collaboration with researchers from the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research and the University of Manchester. We are grateful to more than 1,500 people with RA and adult Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (working and who had stopped working), for taking part in this important survey. We used responses from over 1,200 participants and the resulting data is an important contribution to the body of work which reinforces the need for work to be routinely considered as a health outcome, a view held by the majority in the field of rheumatology. Three quarters of people with RA are diagnosed when of working age.
We carried out this survey in 2017, 10 years on from our ‘I Want to Work’ survey carried out in 2007. We wanted to see if anything had changed from 2007, and so we included some questions in the 2017 survey which had been in the previous survey as well as adding in others, we also incorporated 3 validated instruments to gain comparative data to that which already exists for these particular questionnaires.
Sadly, nothing much seems to have changed, although in 2017 the majority of the respondents, 63.3%, were in paid employment and 7.61% were self-employed which is higher than in the 2007 survey when 54.8% of the participants were in employment. This may reflect a greater number of people whose disease is better controlled as a result of modern therapeutic approaches maximising disease activity control and use of biologics (if disease cannot be controlled), but may also include people who have applied for help under government policies such as the Access to Work scheme, enabling them to remain working. This policy was highlighted in NRAS booklets for employees and employers, developed in response to the survey from 10 years ago and have been widely used by people with RA and rheumatology health professionals.
What has struck us in the new survey is the fragility of jobs for those who are working. The top 3 co-morbid conditions reported alongside their RA, were back pain, hypertension and depression. Whilst more people seem to be opening up to their employer about the fact that they have RA, over 50% of those who were working felt it would be hard to continue in their job if the job changed and became physically, emotionally or generally more demanding. This underlines the need for employers to provide the right support in the workplace. Barriers to remaining at work are the same as described in the 2007 survey, which also highlight the importance of early intervention and support following diagnosis to prevent the individual getting to a crisis, which might lead to job loss. Many people used their holiday allowance to deal with their RA (time off for flares and hospital appointments), others felt unable to attend training days or meetings and a significant number felt unable to seek or accept promotion, thus limiting their career progression and potential future earnings.
In the foreword, Professor Karen Walker-Bone BM, FRCP, PhD, Hon FFOM, Director, Arthritis Research UK/MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, quoted words from Dame Professor Carol Black who has, since 2006, been instrumental in working with successive governments to provide vital research into the link between work and health.
“Work is central to human existence and the motive force for all economies. For individuals, it provides structure and meaning and is good for people’s health and wellbeing, as well as their financial health and prosperity. Moreover, work benefits families and is socially inclusive.”
Work Matters can be downloaded from our website here - http://www.nras.org.uk/publications/work-matters
and hard copies are available by contacting NRAS. We will be working hard over the coming year to get the recommendations implemented. There were a small number of people with adult JIA who answered specific questions relating to their experience and this data is also contained within the report.