Arthritis and Employment debate – why it matters

29 May 2019 Bruce Reilly, Public Affairs Officer, Versus Arthritis
Bill Grant MP in parliament.

On 21 May, MPs demanded an improvement in workplace support for people with arthritis during a debate on arthritis and employment in Parliament. 

More people in work by 2027

Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming challenging. The Government has pledged to see one million more disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, in work by 2027. To achieve this target, it’s vital that people with arthritis have the support they need to stay in or return to work.

Employers have a legal duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure people with disabilities and long-term health conditions are not disadvantaged at work. However, almost 1 in 4 of the people Versus Arthritis surveyed said they had not received this support.

If more support is needed above and beyond reasonable adjustments, the Access to Work scheme can help fund further assistance, such as specialist equipment, transport and support staff. However, our survey found that 59% of people they spoke to had never heard of the scheme, with many more unaware of what type of help it can provide. Read more in our Working it Out report.

Being part of the debate

We’d been working to secure a debate on this issue and briefed a number of MPs beforehand on our campaign.

The debate was opened by Arthritis Champion Bill Grant MP, who highlighted the adjustments he had made in his office for a member of his staff with osteoarthritis, and spoke in favour of our campaign to improve the promotion of the Access to Work scheme for people with arthritis, and also how it operates to ensure people receive the support they need.

Bill Grant also joined our call for the Government to look into better defining “reasonable adjustments”, so that employers and employees are aware of what the legal duty to provide these means in practice.

The importance of workplace support and what’s next

In total 15 MPs from across all different parties contributed, praising our work and echoed our recommendations. This included the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson, who acknowledged the importance of workplace support. He also committed to speaking at our parliamentary event on 2 July on arthritis and work, where he can hear more from people with arthritis about the importance of Access to Work.

Watch the debate

The full debate can be watched here (head to 4:30pm) and read here. It was a really important step in pushing the needs of people with arthritis up the political agenda. With the Minister being relatively new in his post, it was also fantastic opportunity for him to hear directly about the impact of arthritis on work, and why he should prioritise on acting on our recommendations.

Thanks to you

Almost 1,000 people took part in our e-action to ask their MP to attend the debate, with so many sharing their own stories of the impact that arthritis has on their ability to work. This made a massive difference to the number of MPs who contributed to the debate to speak up in Parliament for their constituent with arthritis.

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