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 2015; 67(6): 855–864


Published: June 2015


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.