Chronic pain is costly to both its sufferers and the wider economy. How can managers help?

Written by Andrea Downey Tuesday 21 May 2024
How reasonable adjustments and a culture of understanding can help employees with chronic pain continue to thrive at work
Illustration of a woman in pain holding her shoulder

Chronic pain is one of the largest causes of disability in the UK. It affects a person’s ability to work and harms their social wellbeing, while depriving businesses of their potential as an employee.

An estimated 28 million adults in the UK are affected by chronic pain, which is often called an invisible illness.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 23.4 million working days were lost to the UK economy in 2022 due to musculoskeletal conditions, the most common form of chronic pain. 

Back pain costs the UK economy billions in indirect costs, including from lost work, absenteeism and reduced productivity.

So what should managers do when an employee is affected by chronic pain?

Dr Terry Hudsen CMgr FCMI, a GP and clinical lead for NHS England, says chronic pain can have a “profound” impact and can result in limitations performing a range of tasks, including manual labour, using equipment and sitting or standing for long periods.

Read on: how to empower a suffering employee to work collaboratively with their manager


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