In 2021, more than 50 per cent of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis said their condition has had a negative impact at work, according to Antonella Scali, executive director at the Canadian Psoriasis Network, speaking during a session at the annual Canadian Arthritis Research Conference last week.
People living with inflammatory conditions often report being excluded from the labour market in Canada, said Arif Jetha, a scientist at the Institute for Work & Health. He highlighted a study by the Arthritis Society Canada that found twice as many people with a rheumatic disease reported not being in the labour force compared to those without any health condition.
“When workers with an inflammatory condition do find work, they’re more likely to report work disability,” he said. “This means they’re more likely to report missing work due to their health, working while unwell, facing disruptions to their daily working life, as well as experiencing more insecure work arrangements.”
In addition, a large number of studies have shown inflammatory conditions emerge during people’s prime working years and can disrupt existing and future employment opportunities, said Jetha, noting symptoms like pain and fatigue can restrict functioning at work, including performing job duties and accessing career development opportunities.
These conditions also have fewer visible signs and symptoms, which can create challenges to accessing support at work. Institute for Work & Health research found supervisor and co-worker awareness and support is one of the most critical resources that people with inflammatory conditions can obtain to manage a chronic condition while working.
According to Jehta, the IWH also found people living with inflammatory conditions often struggle with the decision to communicate their health needs at work, which may impact access to support or obtaining job accommodations.
The Canadian Psoriasis Network is taking both an immediate approach in terms of creating online resources for people and a longer-term approach by advocating for advancing the needs of people with psoriatic disease at work, said Scali.
With the help of Laurie Proulx, health and social policy consultant, the CPN has created virtual guides for workplace accommodations and working with doctors to fill out forms, such as absence and disability forms that can often be challenging for people to navigate.
“It’s about acquiring knowledge and being able to advocate for yourself in the workplace to stay employed,” said Proulx. “People need to be able to discuss any challenges and accommodations with their supervisor, but this process can sometimes be more difficult or be at odds with employer policies and practices.”
She also highlighted some workplace and financial needs cited by employees with these conditions, including having a supportive employer, accessing financial supports like medication reimbursement, disability benefits and job protection.
“The labour market is becoming more insecure and a lot of these recommendations are put forward for people working in more stable, white-collar jobs, but many Canadians don’t have those types of jobs,” said Jetha. “So we need to start thinking about strategies for disclosure, accommodation and income support for people who are working in less stable types of employment.”