No to Pain, Yes to a Happy Workplace: Managing Work-Related Chronic Illnesses
Posted on 21st May 2015

businessWork-related chronic illnesses are long-term health conditions. This may include musculoskeletal conditions, heart problems, asthma, depression and anxiety caused or made worse by work.

Based on the 5th European Working Conditions Survey, 78% of workers in the UK reported that work does not affect their health. This is the highest proportion amongst the European countries, similar to Ireland.

Nevertheless, approximately a quarter of the working age population still suffers from chronic illnesses or disabilities.

Whilework may not be the direct cause of chronic illnesses, a person’s health may worsen without immediate treatment. This may lead to problems in the workplace, such as:

1. Operational issues and delays as a result of absences
2. Financial costs
3. Poor productivity and performance

From a legal perspective, the manager can avoid lawsuits and work compensation claims against the company if they minimise risk factors that lead to work related illness. As such, it is the duty of the manager to:

1. Encourage employees to disclose their chronic illnesses. A manager should promote the benefits of disclosing and fostering trust and confidentiality within employees. Employees need to understand that personal information will be shared only with superiors or concerned staff members.If employees are reluctant to disclose their chronic illnesses, managers can conduct an interview to know the reasons.

2. Adopt a “Disability Management” approach, which emphasises practical proactive work adjustments and early intervention. This may apply even if the chronic illness or disability of an employee does not fall under the Equality Act.

Practical proactive work adjustments may include flexible hours or location, shorter working days, frequent breaks and a slower work pace. This may also include reduced physical and mental demands, along with shared tasks responsibilities. In certain cases, managers can provide private spaces for individuals to take medication.

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It is everyone’s job to keep the workplace free from potential danger. Both the management and employees should do their parts to prevent work-related illnesses and hazards.