Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work

The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton, has called on employers across the country to make workplace adjustments for people with arthritis and related conditions.

According to the latest statistics, arthritis and related conditions such as back pain account for 30 million working days lost each year.

The call to action came today (25 July) when the Minister visited Arthritis Research UK’s London office to understand more about the charity’s approach to promoting health and well-being in the workplace.

The Minister met with employees who have arthritis to hear how their condition affects their working lives in different ways – from travelling to work and managing daily tasks that many of us take for granted.

One of the employees the Minister met is Collette McColgan, 28, from Sheffield, who has worked for Arthritis Research UK for nearly two years.

Collette said:

“I’ve struggled in the past to find a job that could work around my condition. It can be quite unpredictable and I don’t know when I’m going to have a flare-up.

“Working for Arthritis Research UK is great. People here understand how arthritis affects you. The flexible working means I can change my hours around appointments, and start later in the day or work from home if I’m having a flare-up. I also have a desk that I can raise, so I can stand up and stretch my legs if I need to.

“It’s been really good to meet with Sarah, I think it’s really important more employers are flexible, so more people with arthritis and other health problems can feel comfortable at work.”

The Minister’s call to employers comes as the Government launches a £4.2 million Challenge Fund which is aimed at testing new approaches to help people with musculoskeletal conditions or mental health issues to remain in employment.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton said:

“We know there is a gap between disabled people who want to work and those who have the opportunity to do so, and employers like Arthritis Research UK set a great example by showing that often small adjustments can go a long way in creating a more inclusive workplace.

“78% of people acquire their disability or health condition during their adult life, which is why we’ve launched the Challenge Fund to support those disabled people who want to work to stay in or return to employment.”

Arthritis Research UK promotes good musculoskeletal health at work and encourages employers of all sizes to take action. Together with people with arthritis, the charity has co-developed an approach to flexible working, and created an office space that is inclusive and promotes movement.

The office caters for a wide spectrum of different working styles and levels of privacy, including a number of focus pods, media booths and open plan project spaces, whilst dedicated ‘retreat’ and ‘wellness’ rooms provide relaxed environments for contemplation, stretching and gentle exercise. As well as these ‘activity based working’ environments, a number of desks can be converted into standing desks and height adjustable for each individual’s needs.

Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive at Arthritis Research UK said:

“We were delighted to welcome the Minister into our arthritis-friendly office today. Arthritis and related conditions, like back pain, affect around 17.8 million people in the UK. We know arthritis can have a devastating impact and too often takes away the freedoms most of us take for granted. We are determined to help people with arthritis to maintain their health, wellbeing and independence, and we know that work is fundamental to that.

“Our own flexible working environment confirms that the right adjustments can make all the difference. This can be about helping people to work at times and in locations that suit them, training managers or creating working environments that promote movement and wellbeing.  We hope the Minister will use her influence to highlight the positive impact employers can make.”

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