A report from The Work Foundation and Fit for Work UK is accusing employers of not doing enough to support people with chronic musculoskeletal disorders.
It also pointed a finger at government and the NHS, finding some patients were putting their health at risk to hold on to their job.
The paper showed that employers, in particular small organisations, had little knowledge about government schemes such as Access to Work and were insufficiently prepared to manage chronic conditions in the workplace.
Many workers also admitted to being reluctant to ask for help from their line managers for fear of stigma, negative judgement and job loss, while others said they had to involve their union to get the necessary support or move into self-employment.
As a result, one of the four key recommendations made calls on employers to consider all necessary workplace adjustments and offer career development opportunities for people with chronic musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
The report warned that unless action was taken, individuals' health conditions and quality of life would continue to be damaged by work, with some leaving the labour market prematurely.
"The consequence of the status quo is an increase in productivity loss, sickness absence and, ultimately, the welfare bill," it added.
As COVER's sister title WSB reported last week, extra workload was found to be the biggest workplace contributor to stress levels.
One employee interviewed in the report highlighted that this could also have a knock-on effect for those with other health conditions.
"Last year, the team were very understaffed some individuals went off sick. I think the pressure to try and do other people's jobs as well as your own just got too much for me. It was a very stressful time to me and that made my illness a lot worse," the employee said.
Work Foundation research officer Kate Summers said: "Individuals with chronic MSDs will go to great lengths to remain in work. They will give up aspects of their family and social life, and they will even take roles below their skill set.
"This is because work can bring many benefits - be they financial, psychological or social. These benefits are undermined if individuals are working in an environment that is not good for their health."
The report's four recommendations are:
- The government should increase participation to initiatives like Access to Work and should provide extra assistance for employees working in small and medium enterprises;
- The government should also ensure that work is viewed as a clinical outcome by clinicians and invest in more specialist nurse roles;
- Employers should consider all necessary workplace adjustments and offer career development opportunities for people with chronic MSDs;
- Clinicians should view it as part of their role to ask patients about their work lives.
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