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SIP Thematic Network - Pain as a Factor in Employment

Chronic pain has a major impact on workforce participants and productivity and is not adequately acknowledged nor addressed.

At EU-level, the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014–2020[1] identified challenges and objectives for Member States, including improvements to health and safety rules, prevention of occupational diseases and issues relating to the ageing workforce. As part of this, the identification of work-related ailments and how to prevent them, is key. The European Union Information Agency for Occupational Safety and Health (EU-OSHA) has acknowledged that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common work-related ailments, and can result in high costs for employers. This issue must be addressed[2].

The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) conducted a survey in 2017 on job quality in correlation to health and well-being of workers and its impact on absenteeism and presenteeism[3]. It found that MSDs are one of the most common work-related complaints, with 43 percent reporting backaches, 41 percent with muscular pains in arms, and 35 percent reported headache, eyestrain and overall fatigue. It also noted that presenteeism increased costs and was associated with lower productivity[4].

On 11 September 2018 the European Parliament adopted an Own-Initiative report, drafted by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on “Pathways for the reintegration of workers recovering from injury and illness into quality employment”[5]. The report sets out measures that the European Commission and Member States should address to retain and reintegrate workers suffering from chronic conditions or injuries back into the workplace. It also calls for work places to adapt to the individual’s needs and implement support systems for those affected.

To emphasise the importance of and its commitment to a healthy and safe work environment for workers, the European Commission launched the European Pillar of Social Rights in November 2017[6]. The Pillar addresses equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion.

SIP Recommendation for Policy Action

Initiate policies addressing the impact of pain on employment and include pain in relevant existing initiatives

SIP calls on the European Commission and Member States to encourage reasonable, flexible workplace adjustments by employers, through policy action, which can help individuals with chronic pain to stay in work or reintegrate into the workforce.

Please see the SIP Framing Paper and Call to Action for further information.







Read more about Pain and Employment on this website:

- SIP 2019: Joint Statement implementation - Pain & Employment

- Meeting of the national initiative SIP Portugal with companies

- Meeting of the interest group on Brain, Mind and Pain in the European Parliament

- SIP Collaboration with CHRODIS+

- Pain Alliance Europe (PAE) survey on chronic pain and work life 2018

- Good examples of work and chronic conditions

- SIP Symposium 2017, WG3: Impact of pain on labour and employment

- SIP Symposium 2016, WG4: Pain, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of workers in the workforce

- SIP 2013 Focus Group 2: Chronic pain in the EU working population

- SIP 2013 Proposal for Action: Using European Best Practices for the reintegration of chronic pain patients into the workforce

- SIP 2012, Workshop 2: Presentation and Statement on "Impact of pain on work participaton" by Michiel Reneman

- SIP Symposium 2011, Workshop 1: Presentation on "Retention and return to work" by Paul Watson

- SIP 2011, Plenary May 4th: Report from Workshop 1


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