Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition where the immune system causes the body to develop skin cells at a higher rate than that of someone who does not suffer from the condition. It affects up to 1.8 million of the UK’s population. Sometimes it will only cause minor skin irritations, but in other cases it can be very sever, significantly affecting the quality of a person’s life.
Wave-length asked a group of people how their psoriasis affected them in the workplace. A large percentage of the people we spoke to explained that they felt they had faced some form of discrimination to do with the workplace due to their psoriasis. Some people shared that they even find getting past the interview stage for a job a challenge due to the stigma attached to the condition and the judgements sometimes made towards it. One person explained that since being diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, they have noticed that during the interview process, people become fixated on their psoriasis instead of their relevant qualifications and experience. Another person felt that their psoriasis would prevent them from getting a job in a kitchen if they disclosed it in their interview; “Do I tell them at my interview that I have psoriasis or wait and see if I get the job? The uniform is a t-shirt and I do have psoriasis on my arms. I feel if I don’t tell them and I get the job they’ll not be very happy but then again if I do tell them I might not get the job.”
Obviously when working in the food industry precautions need to be taken to comply with the health and safety regulations of the food industry as psoriasis can cause the skin to flake and even crack and bleed. Which obviously needs to be considered when a person is working closely with food. However, this does not mean that a person with psoriasis should not be allowed to work in the food industry, it just means that adjustments should be made in order to make the working environment safe (according to health and safety regulations) for both the employee, colleagues and customer/consumer.
Another interesting story shared was, “I work in the health field and wear scrubs which are short sleeved, and there are many co-workers who have psoriasis on their elbows and arms badly, and were told by a supervisor to wear a lightweight long sleeved t-shirt under their scrub top so the patients wont freak out and concern themselves with possibly catching some sort of skin disease. It becomes quite tiresome explaining to people that it’s nothing to worry about, but not all are willing to comprehend or understand.”
We then asked people what adjustments could be made within the workplace in order to make the working environment more comfortable from someone with psoriasis. Three main points were raised:
- Educate staff
By educating your staff you are ensuring that they know the implications of the condition. Not only this, but it removes assumptions and judgements from the workforce. From an employee’s point of view, simply knowing that your colleagues know that your condition is not contagious can make a huge difference in confidence and comfort in the workplace.
- Allow employees to work from home
Employees who have a severe case of psoriasis may find it easier to work from home on some days when their skin is particularly sore and irritable. This is something you as an employer can negotiate with your employee if this is an appropriate option.
- Change duties
For example, an employee with severe psoriasis on their feet may request that they do more paperwork than physical labour.
One person we spoke explained a problem they face on a weekly basis due to how severe their psoriasis is:
“Sometimes it just makes things worse when I try and go into work but I drag myself in, hurting and just making my days horrible. I can’t afford to quit as I need the money. Some days I just need to stay in bed when I am fatigued and hurting.”
In this situation, as an employer you could, if applicable, allow them some time to work from home on the days when they are feeling particularly sore. It makes a huge difference to a person when they know that they don’t have to face the struggles of getting ready and commuting to work, and can simply carry out their duties and meet the same targets but from the comfort of their own home.
This month Wave-length spoke to Jessica Gough, who has suffered from psoriasis for fourteen years and, without treatment, it covers up to 70% of her body.
She explained to us that when her psoriasis flares up her hands are in agony and she finds it hard to type on the computer and lift or move things. Even sitting at an office desk can be uncomfortable for her and cause her to be in a lot of pain, especially when her knees are cracked and hurting. As a result of her psoriasis she finds that she has low self-esteem and struggles with the side effects of her treatment which includes her eyes hurting and her hair thinning.
Although Jess has not faced any direct discrimination, she does feel that declaring her psoriasis on a job application form would result in a very low chance of her getting called in for an interview. She explained that people need to be aware of psoriasis and educated on what it actually is.
“Psoriasis is a condition I believe not enough people understand, it is much that a skin condition it affects your confidence, your capabilities and has a huge impact psychologically on a person. Employees can often see psoriasis but not understand the complications.”
After hearing only a few people’s experiences it became clear that psoriasis has a lot of stigma attached to it as a condition and further education in some fields is necessary. Research has shown that people suffering from psoriasis are more likely to feel isolated and depressed, with stress being one of the main ‘triggers’ for flare ups. After hearing real people’s experiences, it has reiterated the research that suggests that psoriasis presents psychological problems as well as physical. So it isn’t surprising that people suffering from psoriasis find themselves in a vicious circle where stress causes their psoriasis to flare up or get worse, which can attract negative attention from employers, colleagues or customers, which again creates stress or depression and so on and so forth. If an employee knows that their employer and colleagues are educated on and understand their condition, they are going to feel more relaxed at work, resulting in a better outcome for both employer and employee, where further conversations about support and adjustments can be held.
If you would like to share your experiences with psoriasis or any health condition connected to psoriasis, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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