Objectives: To study the occurrence and duration of sick leave as potential risk factors for permanent job loss after 24 months among 112 individuals with chronic arthritis and a disease related problem at work.
Methods: Data collection was embedded in a multicentre randomised controlled trial in which the cost-effectiveness of a multidisciplinary job retention vocational rehabilitation programme for employees with chronic arthritis and a disease related problem at work was compared to usual outpatient care. Sick leave (complete or partial) was defined as absenteeism reported to the employer and permanent job loss as receiving a full work disability pension or unemployment. The association between sick leave at baseline and job loss after 24 months was investigated by multivariate logistic regression analysis, including those variables that were univariately significantly associated with job loss after 24 months.
Results: At baseline, 60 of the 112 subjects (54%) were on sick leave, with a mean duration of 18.7 weeks, in half of these patients the sick leave was complete. After 24 months, 26 of the 112 patients (23%) had lost their job. The presence of complete sick leave (OR 4.74, 95% CI 1.86-12.07) and the depression score of the hospital anxiety and depression scale (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.02-1.36) were significantly and independently associated with job loss after 2 years follow-up.
Conclusion: The occurrence of complete sick leave was found to be an independent risk factor for job loss in patients with chronic arthritis who have a disease related problem at work.