(Vancouver) – Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) today announced the winner of Canada’s Best Workplaces for Employees Living with Arthritis award: Providence Health Care.

“ACE congratulates Providence Health Care and other nominated companies for efforts to develop policies to ensure high quality health benefits and flexible work arrangements for Canadian workers living with arthritis. For workers with chronic diseases such as arthritis, the challenge involves balancing the demands of managing their disease and of working ‘around’ symptoms such as daily pain, fatigue, joint dysfunction and immobility. We’re calling on all plan sponsors in Canada to look carefully at their health benefit plans from the perspective of employees living with arthritis,” said Cheryl Koehn, Founder and President, Arthritis Consumer Experts.

Based on workplace insights shared by employee and company managers, Providence Health Care stood out for its supportive work environment:
  • provides programs and services to support employee health and wellness (i.e., access to occupational health advisors to help guide recovery from occupational or non-occupational related illness/injury, a safety advisor to assess and address workplace safety concerns, a free immunization program, a musculoskeletal injury prevention team to advise on ergonomic issues, and violence prevention)
  • works with employee to develop individualized job accommodations such as flexible hours, light laptop, sit-stand desk, headsets, and extended sick leave
  • provides counselling services through the Employee and Family Assistance Program
  • offers education and resources on health and wellness in its electronic newsletter and on its website
“Supporting all our employees to fully participate in the workplace makes for a more engaged workforce and ultimately better service to the public. That is why the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees is of paramount importance. When we have an employee who is struggling at work, we consider their limitations and restrictions and how we might be able to accommodate them in the workplace to help them safely stay at work and maintain a healthy work-life balance,” said Sandy Coughlin, Director of Occupational Health & Safety, Providence Health Care.

Arthritis in the Workplace

Arthritis is the most common cause of work disability in Canada, resulting in both poor quality of life and workplace limitations. Arthritis typically strikes people between ages 35 and 50 – in their prime working years. A recent evaluation of the economic burden of illnesses by Statistics Canada estimated the annual cost of workplace disability from arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions at $13.6 billion.1 Studies have shown that many people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis are forced to leave the workforce prematurely and earn less than those living without the disease. Other studies have clearly shown that the cost of being present, but less productive, is higher than the cost of being absent, with a workforce survey showing the cost was four times higher than the cost of missed days from work.2

Arthritis represents a real challenge to the productivity of the Canadian economy today – and that impact will be felt more acutely in the future. Arthritis directly affects the lives of 6 million Canadians but an aging population combined with other factors mean that by 2040 one in four Canadians will join the ranks of those living with arthritis.3

Ten years from now, there will be a new diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) every 60 seconds, resulting in almost 30% of the employed labour force (one in three workers) having difficulty working due to OA. In addition, approximately 500,000 Canadians will be suffering with moderate to severe disability due to OA. Over the next thirty years, Canadians living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) will increase to 1.3% which means that approximately 1 in 136 workers will be living with RA.4

While arthritis consumers are able to contribute mentally, their joints are in severe pain and they are likely to leave the workforce earlier than planned, including going on disability (18% within five years after diagnosis and 27% within 10 years after diagnosis). However, employers can work with their employees to create a workplace more conducive to people who have arthritis.

About Canada’s Best Workplaces for Employees Living with Arthritis Consumer Experts

Canada’s Best Workplaces for Employees Living with Arthritis is a national campaign to help employers better understand arthritis in the workplace and recognize companies who offer exceptional work environments for their employees living with arthritis. Through a rigorous selection process using wide-ranging criteria, Arthritis Consumer Experts evaluates Canadian companies that apply best arthritis practices. The application process delivers insights to further strengthen Canadian companies’ approaches to creating a more productive and arthritis-friendly work environment by helping employers and employees assess their companies’ awareness of arthritis and support systems for employees living with the disease.

About Arthritis Consumer Experts

Arthritis Consumer Experts is a national organization that provides free, science-based information and education programs in both official languages to people with arthritis. ACE serves people living with all forms of arthritis by helping them take control of their disease and improve their quality of life through education and empowerment. Founded and led by people with arthritis, ACE also actively advocates on arthritis health and policy issues, through ACE’s JointHealth™ family of programs and the Arthritis Broadcast Network, directly to consumers/patients, healthcare professionals, media and government. ACE is guided by a strict set of guiding principles, set out by an advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis consumers.

For further information, please contact:
Kelly Lendvoy
Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs
Arthritis Consumer Experts

1 Lacaille D. Arthritis and employment research: Where are we? Where do we need to go? J Rheumatology 2004; 32 Suppl 72: s42-5
2 Lacaille D. Work loss in Arthritis. Can we prevent it? Advanced in Rheumatology Vol. 7, Issue 4, 2009
3 Arthritis Alliance of Canada. Standards on Arthritis Preventions and Care. 2003 Website. Accessed September, 2011
4 Ibid.
5 Lacaille D, Sheps S, Spinelli JJ, Chalmers A, Esdaile JM. Identification of modifiable work-related factors that influence the risk of work disability in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2004; 51:843-52