Understanding the employment landscape in people with systemic sclerosis

Publication type
Journal article
Jazayeri H, Gignac MA, Ahmad Z, Johnson SR
Date published
2024 Jun 01
Journal of Rheumatology
Open Access?

Objective: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) can restrict employment participation. Our objectives were to comparatively evaluate health factors, work factors, and workplace accommodations between those who are employed and those who recently gave up employment. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted of employed and recently working, but now unemployed, individuals with SSc. Demographics, employment sectors, health factors, flare frequency, work context, and information about the need, availability, and use of workplace supports were collected. Results: Participants were 140 individuals (108 [77.1%] women, 32 [22.9%] men), of whom 110 (78.6%) were employed and 30 (21.4%) were unemployed. Participants worked in education/health/sciences/arts (n = 51, 36.4%), sales/retail (n = 23, 16.5%), banking/insurance/business/technology (n = 22, 15.7%), government (n = 15, 10.7%), construction/utilities (n = 10, 7.1%), and manufacturing/agriculture/mining/logging (n = 10, 7.1%). Employed participants had a lower mean age (48.4 vs 54.3 yrs), and higher level of education (77.3% with postsecondary education vs 22.7% without). Those who had no flares were more frequently employed (41.7%), compared to those who had 1 to 2 flares (35.2%) and ≥ 3 flares (23.1%). The availability of workplace accommodations differed significantly between the employed and unemployed: flexible hours (74.5% vs 40%, P = 0.0005), more rest periods (73.6% vs 46.7%, P = 0.0001), special equipment (82.7% vs 46.7%, P < 0.0001), and work schedule flexibility (66.4% vs 33.3%, P = 0.003). Conclusion: Health factors alone do not differentiate those who are employed and those who gave up employment. This study lays the groundwork for where SSc-specific efforts in workplace policies and practices should be directed, especially workplace support.