Musculoskeletal Disorders Leading Cause Of Sickness Absence and Productivity Loss


Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are the primary cause of sickness absence and productivity loss for businesses. According to a new industry report, employers need to be able to meet the needs of employees with MSDs, allowing them to continue working and prevent their condition getting worse, in addition to boosting engagement and productivity.

A musculoskeletal disorder may affect bones, joints or connective tissue – the most common of these conditions is arthritis. However, it is a common misnomer that this condition, and those like it, affect mainly elderly people. In fact, a study in 2011 showed that 37 per cent of those claiming Employment and Support Allowance reported an MSD as their primary health condition.

In 2012, the Taking the strain: the impact of musculoskeletal disorders report found over half of employed respondents reported a loss of earnings due to the condition. Three quarters of retired respondents said their condition had influenced their decision to retire, with the majority leaving the job market before the age of 55.

This wealth of research suggests that MSDs are of massive impact the workforce, with many sufferers citing lost earnings, a reduction in productivity at work and early retirement as consequences of this condition.

New MSD research

A new report published in autum 2014, entitled Self-management of chronic musculo-skeletal disorders and employment, explores the self management of MSD conditions. It found that employers often don’t go to the necessary lengths to ensure those suffering from an MSD can access the benefits of work. Social, economic and psychological benefits could enhance the health and wellbeing of staff and make sufferers more productive.

The report, by Kate Summers, Zofia Bajorek, Stephen Bevan, states: “Self-management can empower individuals with a better understanding of, and control over, their symptoms and provide them with the tools to ensure their condition is understood and accommodated by others.”

The study suggests that line managers need to be more aware of MSDs to ensure sufferers feel valued, and are well-integrated. Many MSD sufferers don’t seek support for their condition at work, for fear of being judged unable to properly do their jobs.

However, according to the new report, when line managers work with staff to develop mutually beneficial solutions those with MSD will see improved levels of wellbeing. In turn, this enables employers to benefit from improvements in engagement and enhanced levels of productivity.

If you’d like to talk about the effects of MSDs on your workforce’s productivity, speak to the team at OHBM today.