Today was a busy day for those of us keen to spread the word about MSDs at work. In London the Work Charter was launched by the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance. The Work Foundation is happy to support it as it strongly echoes messages from our own Fit for Work? Research which has looked at the factors which help or hinder full participation at work among the 6.5 million UK citizens who have MSDs. There was good coverage of the report on the BBC website.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, I was presenting the results of our EU research to a ‘special interest group’ of MEPs in the European Parliament. Also presenting was Mr. Armindo Silva Head of Unit Social Protection and Inclusion Policies, Employment and Social Affairs Directorate. He explained how the new Directive of MSDs was being drafted and consulted on. I presented some of the key findings of the Fit for Work Europe report, highlighting in particular the need to focus on early intervention. Several MEPs spoke in favour of our findings on the links between MSDs and Mental Health and expressed interest in hearing more on this topic. Finally, Mr Marios Kouloumas, Chairman of Eular-PARE – speaking on behalf of people with Rheumatic diseases – explained the importance of taking into account the patient perspective in policy-making, emphasizing that Rheumatic and inflammatory conditions are not caused by work, but can make staying at work difficult if insufficient support is available. This was a very important point because the forthcoming MSD Directive only covers MSDs which are caused by work and not, by definition, Rheumatic conditions. I find this troubling, and it remains to be seen how this serious omission is dealt with by the European Commission.