RA in the workplace

RA in the workplace

We are planning on launching a campaign early in 2013 looking at disability in the workplace and what employers can do to make work easier for their employees. The aim is to show businesses of all sizes that very often they only need to make small changes to make a big difference. We want to demonstrate that having a 'disabled' employee is nothing to be scared of, discussion is good and help is usually available.

If anyone has a positive example of an employer who has supported them in the workplace, that we can use as an example to others, then please let us know. I’m sure there must be some, but it is always the negative stories we hear about. It may be that they supported you because of your RA, but it could be that they supported you because your partner/parent/child had RA. Contact me at andrew@nras.org.uk.

Thank you.

16 Replies

  • Before my company got taken over,my boss was very good with me. He took me on knowing i had ra and i didn't let him down. He let me take appointments and he made my workng station as comfortable as was allowed. When we got taken over there was no place for me and sadly i haven't worked since. good luck. sylvi.

  • Thanks Sylvi, glad your original employer was helpful. Do you think you could say a bit more about what they did to make your workstation more comfortable just so that we have some examples we can use.

  • They put a box under my desk so my leg was elevated. Its not a lot,but i hope this helps.

  • H Andrew, I can't really add any more to what Sylvi has said,( e'g changing work stations to help me) But just to say that my Boss has been really supportive, Even thou i have been of for nearly 4 months now, This has really helped me, because worrying about my job would of added to this illness, He has mentioned about using me as a floating, Which will mean i will not have to do as much Physical/ demanding work,

    I also ask him when i first got diagnosed to look up RA on the internet, So that he fully understood what to expect from me when i return, I believed this really helped, I have also said that i would like him to discuses this with the other staff before i return, So that they understood that i might not be able to do as much as i could before,

    I haven't returned yet, So things might change depending on what hours he has available, As it is a small company, But i do believe that this could help employers working for bigger company's,

    To change there hours and jobs to help them.

    I hope this helps a bit.


  • Thanks Shirl and I hope things work out for you when you do return to work. It certainly sounds from what you say, and what people have said in other forums, that open discussion with the employer helps as it gives them a much better understanding of what RA is and what changes may be needed.

  • I wouldnt say this was a completely positive experience. I worked as a teacher / researcher at an ancient university. I had a lot of support from the chief administrator in my department who understood chronic illness because her daughter had many back problems. My work did give me some flexibility, so I could arrange my own tutorials with students for the morning and leave work at 2 in order to rest for the afternoon before working on admin or preparation from home in the afternoon. I worked on ESRC research grants and the hospital consultant wrote a letter supporting me so that they accepted a longer time period for me to submit my research.

    My students were very understanding (though they were also pretty demanding too).

    One of my senior colleagues had motor neurone disease. Her college completely refurbished a flat for her where she lived until she died. I assume now that they have done this they have a good resource they can draw on.

  • Thanks for that Cathie, it shows you had support from some people at least and they showed a certain degree of flexibility.

  • Yes, i found it important to identify helpful people. Not everyone would be supportive, some took advantage to marginalise me in a competititve environment. But identifying someone who had some understanding and empathy was important.

  • My work have been really supportive. When I was first dianosed, this time last year, I saw our OT nurse who arraned for me to receive six physio/acupuncture appointments to help with the pain. I also:

    - had a work station assessment, new chair and keyboard to ensure my desk configuration is as good as it can be.

    - am allowed to work flexible hours - including working from home, normally one day a week. - have an on-site disabled parking permit which allows me to park really close to any buildings I need to visit.

    - just signed up for a series of six counselling sessions to help me come to terms with the effects of having RA.

    The thing I probably still find the most challenging is, on days that I look fine but feel awful, getting the message across to other colleagues that I'm not at my best. I've tried to deal with this by wearing a wrist splint on these days - whether it's my wrist that's the problem or not - as a physical sign that something's not right.

    I hope that helps?

  • Many thanks for that. I think this is a major issue - the fact that the symptoms often aren't visible so people cannot see that you are feeling awful. I know of someone who always gets funny looks whenever she uses her crutches as she does not have a cast or anything to identify an injured leg. Hopefully what we can do is get people to talk more so that employers/colleagues can develop a better understanding of RA.

  • Are you sure we can't tell you the bad stuff? ;-)

  • I'm sure there is lots to tell but on this occasion we only want the good stuff. We want to show other employers what they can do to make a difference and how, very often, those changes don't require a great deal of effort or expense.

  • I have a mixed story where my initial line manager just moaned at me and complained that the hospital where dragging their feet and how this illness was dragging on. But I now have a great manager who is really supportive. I am a college lecturer so my job can be very stressful. She has sent me to occupational health who have recommended phased return. They have completed work place assessment and provided me with a trolley to wheel my work around in rather than carrying it. I was diagnosed in Feb. Had 3 months off sick and have been on phased return on full pay ever since. Think it's safe to say this is positive.

  • Thanks. That's is the sort of thing we are looking for.

  • I have ergonomic equipment, can work from home should I be really bad, have adjustable footstool and phone headset. My work is reactive rather than pro-active, if I have an issue we will look at it and make changes where possible but in the main they are supportive, unusually I had RA prior to joining my company (14yrs) but it was far less of an issue at that time than it has been in recent times so they have had to kind of learn with me..


  • unfortunally i have mixed results in the work place and i think its great this campaign is going on

    my personell manager keeps telling me to take early retirement to which i replied no i have been off 4 months now I returned once with a fitness cert with adaptions all i got told was reduce hours and start work threaten me with occi health i havent started treatment yet.i think employers need to be sent a booklet explaining ra oh she said had the hospital not given me wrist supports how nieve. see specialist next week hopefully to start treatment.

    hope this helps

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