Availability, need for, and use of work accommodations and benefits: are they related to employment outcomes in people with arthritis?

Monique A. Gignac, Xingshan Cao, Jessica McAlpine

Arthritis Care & Research Vol. 67, No. 6, June 2015, pp 855–864

https://doi.org/10.1002/acr.22508

Published: June 2015

Abstract:

Objective. To examine the availability, need, and use of workplace policies for workers with osteoarthritis (OA) and inflammatory arthritis (IA) and their association with employment outcomes.

Methods. Participants (n=219) were employed, ages ≥25 years, and diagnosed with OA or IA. They were recruited through community advertising and rheumatology clinics in 2 Canadian provinces. Respondents completed a 35–45-minute telephone interview assessing demographics (age, sex), health (diagnosis, pain, activity limitations), work context (job control), employment outcomes (workplace activity limitations, absenteeism, productivity losses, reduced hours), benefits (extended health, short-term leaves), and accommodations (flexible hours, modified schedules, special equipment/adaptations, work-at-home arrangements). Regression analyses examined differences in benefit/accommodation need and use.

Results. Many participants reported that arthritis impacted their work. But with the exception of extended health benefits, ~50–65% of participants reported not needing each individual benefit/accommodation, although only 7.3% of respondents reported needing no benefits or accommodations at all. Greater job control and education were associated with greater perceived need and use of benefits/accommodations. Need was also associated with greater activity limitations, and disclosure of arthritis was related to use of benefits/accommodations. Participants needing but not using workplace policies often had significantly poorer employment outcomes compared to those using benefits/accommodations.

Conclusion. Findings are relevant to workers with arthritis and to employers. Results suggest that individuals with arthritis are unlikely to be a drain on workplace resources. Many individuals do not use benefits/accommodations until needed, and among those using them, there were generally positive relationships with diverse employment outcomes.