Supporting employees with arthritis

Information and guidance for employers on supporting employees who have arthritis including legal obligations

These pages give more information on the specific condition. They should be read in conjunction with our Supporting employees with long-term health conditions pages to help you understand how a workplace can assist in helping an employee return to and remain at work.

Approximately 10 million people in the UK have a diagnosis of arthritis – this includes all age groups.

There are 2 mains types:

  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis

Depending on the type of arthritis, symptoms most commonly affect the joints in the hands, the hips and knees and the spine. The impact on an individual can vary and may include:

  • pain, tenderness and stiffness in any joint or joints
  • inflammation-causing warm or reddening skin and restricted movement of the joints
  • a weakness in and wasting of the muscle

How to support employees in the workplace

Employees with arthritis may have increased levels of sickness absence. They may also need to attend hospital or specialist appointments more frequently.

Authorised absence, out with the normal organisation sickness absence triggers, should be considered an appropriate adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. This would be identified within your Supporting Staff Attendance Policy.

If you feel your policy doesn’t include this, you can get support from our Supporting staff attendance pages.

Other areas that you can consider when supporting an employee with arthritis may include:

  • discussing the specific case and needs with the employee and ideally with an Occupational Health Specialist
  • fluctuating health and stamina levels which may affect them more if they do shift work or full-time hours
  • risk assessing work activities including emergency evacuation if the employee’s mobility is affected
  • considering the length of time that work requires remaining in one position – standing, walking distances required etc. These may change over time for the individual
  • considering longer-term adjustments to the employee's immediate work area for example adjustments to the height, angle and position of workstations
  • risk assessing will identify whether chair, desk, keyboard and mouse are suitable or require replacement. Also considering other support, i.e. voice-activated software, hands-free telephone headset. These items will be covered in a DSE assessment
  • adjusting workload and work targets
  • amending work rotas (e.g. starting later and finishing earlier at work to avoid rush hour), home working if appropriate or a combination of both

Key sources of support

Key sources of support for both the employer and employee include:

Healthy Working Lives can help you to develop supportive and inclusive workplace policies and offer support both online and on the telephone. You can contact the free and confidential advice line on 0800 019 2211 for more advice.


Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), there may be further support required for your employee who has a health condition due to arthritis.

They may be in the category identified by the Scottish Government at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. To protect themselves, they have been issued with a letter informing them of shielding (external site) and what this means for them.

Within this shielding letter, there is lots of information on support for them. They can also use this to provide evidence to you as their employer that they cannot work outside their own home.

If they have not received a letter requesting them to follow shielding protocol, you may find that they still fall into a category of higher risk. This can be identified by the fact they get offered the flu vaccine by their GP. They do not need to accept this offer, but they need to have been classified by their GP as needing it because of their health condition.