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Spondyloarthritis and the Workplace

It is no secret that SpA can have an effect on your employment and work life. In our 2020 Quality of Life Survey, 40.8% said that they are working full-time, including self-employment. 2.4% were on short-term disability and 15.8% were on long-term disability.

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Not everyone who lives with Spondyloarthritis will need accommodations at work, but based on your situation it may be beneficial, and even necessary, for you to get accommodations in the workplace. By optimizing your work environment, you can be more comfortable and perform better at work. 

If you are new to the workplace or newly diagnosed with SpA, it may be confusing to navigate possible accommodations and determine what you need. Below you will find some tips and tricks to help you navigate this. 

  1. You are legally not required to disclose your illness to your employer, however it may help to speak to someone at your workplace, such as the human resources representative. By having an open conversation, you may be able to work together in order to determine what will work best for you. 
  2. Have a discussion with your healthcare provider about your occupation and how your disease may impact it. Your healthcare provider may be able to give you tips about possible accommodations in your workplace. 
  3. Meet with an occupational therapist who can help you optimize your surroundings based on your condition. Sometimes you may be able to request this assessment via your employer. 
  4. There are many accommodation options that exist, so exploring them and figuring out what you need is important. 

    Flexibility in scheduling can be beneficial by allowing you to work part time or work from home when needed. The option to set your own hours can also allow you to work during the hours when you feel best. 

    Depending on your job, you may want to look into modifying your duties. For example, if you’re a nurse who is struggling with the physical demands of the job, inquire if you can change to mostly administrative duties, while remaining in the nursing field. Some employers offer to pay for re-training or education should you need to change your role (i.e. working on a production line then moving into an office job.)

    You may also find relief in using ergonomic devices. An occupational therapist will be best qualified to suggest devices based on your needs, but they may include an ergonomic chair, a standing desk, monitor stands or a telephone headset.
  5. Maintain open communication with your employer/ human resources department (if you decided to disclose). By maintaining communication, you can adapt and make changes as you go if something is not working well for you. 

    If you’re ready to have a conversation with your employer or the HR department, use this printout to facilitate your conversation. This document will help your employer understand SpA, how it can affect your performance at work and how they can accommodate your needs. 

Know Your Rights 

In Canada there is no nation-wide legislation regarding disabilities. There are federal statutes, provincial acts and codes and Supreme Court decisions to protect disability rights ⁽¹⁾. 

The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits the discriminatory practice of refusing to employ someone or treating them differently due to a disability. It also prohibits employment applications that express or imply limitation. Employees are not allowed to harass their colleagues based on their disability under this act. The Canadian Human Rights Act bans discrimination when Canadians are employed by or receive services from the federal government, First Nations governments and private companies that are regulation by the federal government like banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies. 

The Employment Equity Act aims to “achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability.”⁽²⁾.The act states that employment equity goes beyond treating people the same way (equality) but also requires special measures and accommodations. This act aims to correct the disadvantage experienced by women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. The act applies to private sector employers and federal public administration employing one hundred or more employees including the RCMP and the Canadian Forces. 

References: 

  1. https://ccla.org/workplace-accessibility-canada/
  2. https://lois-laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/e-5.401/page-1.html#h-215135

Provincial Regulations

Newfoundland and Labrador

Prince Edward Island 

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Quebec

Ontario 

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta 

British Columbia

Nunavut

Northwest Territories

Yukon 


For more resources like this , Visit our Young Adult Resources Section, located HERE.