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Arthritis to cost employers £3.43 billion by 2030

The costs arise from lost working hours and days, and earlier retirement of sufferers

Arthritis will cause 25.9 million lost working days (costing £3.43 billion) by 2030, according to a report by Arthritis Research UK.

The charity’s Nation’s Joint Problem report found the two most common forms of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – cost the UK 25.13 million working hours and £2.56 billion in 2017. However, this is likely to increase because of the country's ageing population.

The report also found that a quarter (25%) of the population were leaving work early or retiring earlier because of the condition. Arthritis is particularly prevalent in physically demanding sectors such as agriculture, construction, transportation, nursing and social work.

Despite this, arthritis remains largely invisible from the public as the symptoms aren't immediately visible. The report found almost half (44%) of the UK population aren’t aware that arthritis is a major cause of absenteeism, with more than a third (37%) of respondents saying they did not know anyone with arthritis.

The report coincides with Arthritis Research UK’s campaign to highlight how arthritis affects people. More than 10 million people in Britain have arthritis and the condition can cause high levels of pain and fatigue.

Arthritis Research UK director of external affairs Olivia Belle said: “As an employer, it’s important to acknowledge that arthritis is a workplace health issue and understand how the condition might affect your staff. And think about changes you can make to help people with arthritis continue to do their job. Making reasonable adjustments such as offering flexibility in working hours, modifying tasks that are part of a person’s job, and allowing time off to attend appointments can make a big difference.”

The Work Foundation's lead researcher in HR and management, Zofia Bajorek told HR magazine that HR directors and managers have an important role in supporting people with chronic conditions, adding that they could improve training and wellness programmes to address this.

“What we are finding is that many line managers may not have had the necessary management training to undertake these [employee sickness] discussions, or do not know where to direct employees,” she said. “This makes disclosure, and the subsequent implementation of effective interventions, more difficult.

“It is important that HR directors have a strategy for appointing suitable candidates to line management and management positions and providing relevant training and development to managers for having sensitive conversations and developing positive employment relationships.

“Positive initiatives also include having a broader wellness policy in place, supportive team leaders who are educated on holistic approaches to managing chronic disease, and appointing a workplace champion who staff can go to for additional support,” she added.