The challenge of dealing with fluctuating conditions within a workforce

The Working with Arthritis report launched on the 5th of July by Arthritis UK, highlights that musculo-skeletal conditions are one of the most common causes of sickness absence and job loss affecting over 10 million people in the UK.

Justin Tomlinson, The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People supported the launch in the House of Commons on the 5th July of an insightful report from Arthritis UK “Working with Arthritis”.

The Minister and the report highlight that musculo-skeletal conditions are one of the most common causes of sickness absence and job loss affecting over 10 million people in the UK and accounting for a third of all years lived with disability. Employment rates fall well below the average for those with musculo-skeletal conditions and 30.6 million working days are lost to sickness, costing the economy an estimated £10billion a year!

The challenges of an ageing workforce and working longer potentially exacerbate the impact on employers and as speakers highlighted at the launch managing sickness absence can be hard for those affected and their employers.

Many arthritic conditions vary, sometimes unpredictably and a person’s strength, stamina, joint movement, pain levels and the side effects of treatment can change, sometimes at short notice, making work difficult or impossible.

Having effective systems for monitoring and responding supportively to absence can be a huge advantage – minimising impacts and costs for employers and helping people remain in work, which has significant long term health benefits.

Arthritis Research’s well evidenced report concludes with a number of key recommendations:

  • Access to Work is an often unrecognised source of financial support to help fund adjustments to work (or support travel to work) and the Minister reminded the audience at the launch that this scheme has been extended to try and be available for more people. Empactis intends to use its Health Manager platform to help managers understand how to support their staff to use this funding when appropriate.
  • The report calls for fiscal measures to help employers of all sizes to improve workplace health and wellbeing, including musculo-skeletal health. Early referral and supportive rehabilitation are key to this and the Empactis platform is designed to enable this by early recognition of health issues causing absence, supporting managers with case management and promoting measures to improve health
  • Arthritis Research UK are proposing that the Workplace Wellbeing Charter is strengthened by Public Health England to support improved musculo-skeletal health. The Charter encourages businesses to use data to understand the health of their workforces enabling targeted health improvement. Empactis’ Insight capabilities directly provide such capabilities.
  • The report makes two recommendations on improved analysis of data and innovation – encouraging the use of the health and Work Innovation Fund to support and evaluate interventions to reduce work losses associated with musculo-skeletal conditions and it calls for work status to be clearly recorded in health records and used as a clinical outcome in care pathways. These are initiatives that Empactis support and are helping to encourage using our network of expert contacts.
  • Finally the report calls for improvements in the Health and Work Programme to directly provide services to support those with particularly complex conditions and co-morbidity to get the rehabilitation support services they need. The Empactis Health Manager module is being designed to help improve the management of expert providers of occupational health, physiotherapy or broader rehabilitation support.

The report is clear in the challenges of supporting employees with musculo-skeletal conditions and of the high impacts of failing to provide such support. It also highlights clearly the benefits of providing support to managers to understand how best to help their staff and of using tools to help understand the impact of activities and policies on staff health.

Empactis welcomes this useful summary, which strongly accords to the functionality our software is designed to improve – enabling managers to support and improve the health of the workers they rely on.