Work it, baby

Job well done...with a bit of research and experience, Arthur and I have found our perfect occupation, writing.

Job well done…with a bit of research and experience, Arthur and I have found our perfect occupation, writing.

Kicking back on Labour Day made me think about how having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) had affected my working life.

To clarify: my paid, formal, get-out-of-my-pyjamas-before-leaving-home type of work, not my daily schedule of household chores.

If you’re interested in handy tips for working around the home, read a previous post.

A job is one of the best distractions from the ever-present Arthur so it’s important to find the right one.

Your job needs to be something you can do and enjoy doing, and should come with understanding employers.

After a year as a checkout chick last century, I discovered I wasn’t physically cut out for continuous standing interspersed only by packing and lifting groceries.

Nor was my mind agile enough to calculate change and remain perky and helpful while longing for a comfortable chair, a cold drink and a foot massage.

I hadn’t told my employer or managers about my chronic disease because I assumed they wouldn’t hire me and I didn’t want them to think I was incapable of doing the job.

Back then I didn’t have the visual cues most people associate with RA: swollen and misshapen, a.k.a. dodgy, hands and feet so I figured I could get away with simply looking young, fit and healthy.

And, anyway, I considered myself able bodied – and still do – even though arthritis is a recognised disability.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, I could have asked for “reasonable adjustments” so that I could perform my job properly, for example, a stool to sit on at the checkout when I was tired or more regular rest breaks.

For that matter, anti-discrimination laws protect workers with a disability from being treated unfairly, including during recruitment.

If you need advice on your rights and options at work, you can contact organisations such as JobAccess and Centrelink.

I’ve had three career changes in my working life and there may be more to come because retirement is still a speck on the horizon.

Because of Arthur I’ve had to be adaptable and a bit choosy about my occupations.

In doing so I’ve ended up in enjoyable, doable and fulfilling jobs.

These days I tell employers about my RA within my first few months in the role.

This has led to understanding and accommodating workplaces when I’ve needed to take time off for doctor’s appointments, surgery or during a flare up.

And once my colleagues are aware of my limitations, they usually help with tasks I can’t do such as lifting heavy boxes.

If ever you can’t do your job because of illness or disability you may qualify for a superannuation disability benefit.

You may also be able to claim disability benefits if you have insurance policies such as income or mortgage protection.

For more information about accessing your super or insurance policies, visit the Chronic Illness Alliance website.