Arthritis and related conditions, such as back pain are the most common conditions in our working population, and by 2050 it is estimated that rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis will affect one in five people in the UK. These conditions are also a leading cause of sickness absence, resulting in a fifth of all absences, with around 30.8 million working days lost in the UK each year.

With only 63% of working age people with arthritis or a related condition in employment, more must be done to ensure that we retain the talent and expertise of people with arthritis across sectors and industries.

Improving the Access to Work scheme

One way which we believe people with arthritis can be better supported in the workplace is by improving the Access to Work Scheme: a government-funded scheme designed to support people with a disability, or a physical or mental health condition, who have related workplace needs. While an employer is responsible for making reasonable adjustments to enable their employee to stay in the workplace, if extra help is needed then Access to Work could provide it. The grant awarded by the scheme can be used to pay for practical help to enable people to start work, stay in work, or move into self-employment.

However, we know there are problems with the scheme. To shed light on some of the main issues, we’ve written a new campaign report called Working It Out: Awareness of Access to Work and employer support (PDF 1.01 MB).

You can get involved by sending this report to your MP.

What we’re calling for:

We want the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to:

  • Undertake immediate and ongoing promotion of Access to Work to people with arthritis and related conditions.
  • Commission or undertake work to clarify the meaning of reasonable adjustments, ensuring that people with arthritis and related conditions are consulted, so that it is clear what employers should provide.
  • Consider how to ensure that recommendations made by the Access to Work scheme are enacted.
  • Put in place support to help people challenge employers who do not act on Access to Work recommendations in a timely manner.

How you can help

We know it makes a difference if decision makers hear about a topic directly from their constituent, so please do get involved by sending our new campaign report to your MP. It’s really easy to do, we just need you to enter your name and contact details, and our system will do the rest for you.

If you want to help us fix this system, but you aren’t sure how to influence decisions at a local or national level, you can sign up to our campaigns network to join others and call for change.

What we’ve already done

  • Oct 2018: we launched our Working It Out campaign report based on our powerful survey.
  • Sept and Oct 2018: we went to the political party conferences, alongside three campaigners living with arthritis, and spoke to MPs, Ministers, Secretaries of State, Councillors and delegates about our survey findings and what they can do to support people with arthritis in the workplace.
  • May – June 2018: over 1,500 of our supporters filled in a survey sharing their experience of how arthritis had impacted their working life.
  • Feb 2017: our Policy team responded to the Improving Lives: Work and Health Green Paper.
  • Feb 2017: our Public Affairs team coordinated a parliamentary drop in on the topic of employment.
  • Feb 2017: 319 people signed our open letter to Government about the topic of work, and 269 people submitted a personal story to support our policy consultation response around the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper.
  • June 2016: our Policy team wrote the Working with Arthritis policy report. Access to Work came out as a key theme in this.

Need more information?

If you need support you can call our free helpline for advice on 0800 5200 520 or email

You can also find out more about the Access to Work scheme at or you can call the scheme advisers directly 0800 121 7479. If you live in Northern Ireland, there is information at