Fit for Work is an coordinated programme working to increase the number of people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions remain in, or rejoin, the workforce.

Conditions that affect bones and joints, which are known as musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs, have a significant impact on people’s ability to work; not only for the person affected but also for the country as a whole.

Evidence suggests that:

  • MSDs affect nearly 1 in 4 adults in New Zealand.
  • By 2020 the prevalence of arthritis is expected to reach 16.9%, which is equivalent to 120,000 people.
  • The odds of participating in the labour force in New Zealand are much lower for those people with a chronic condition, such an MSD. In 2005, for example, 25,440 people were not participating in the labour market because of their arthritis.
  • In 2009/2010 the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand (ACC) spent $147,452,564 on work-related musculoskeletal entitlement claims.
  • At the end of 2010 14.5% of all accepted claims for sickness benefit and 11.7% of all accepted claims for invalid’s benefit were for MSDs. MSDs represented the second largest category of conditions resulting in claims for sickness benefit.
  • The direct cost of work-related injuries and disease (which are thought to be largely made up of MSDs) to the New Zealand’s economy was 4-8 per cent of GDP in 2002.

There are four main principles which medical professionals, employers, employees and the government should focus on if we are to improve the working lives of workers with MSDs.

  1. Early diagnosis and intervention are essential.
  2. Identify where work is good.
  3. Thinking beyond the physical symptoms.
  4. Focus on capacity not incapacity.

Following the release of this research a New Zealand Fit for Work Alliance was formed to develop and coordinate action for New Zealand to ensure people with musculoskeletal disorders can be “Fit for Work”. Arthritis New Zealand chairs this group.

The FFWNZ alliance is part of the global Fit for Work initiative.

Fit for Life Report

The report, released in September 2012, looks at the impact that musculoskeletal conditions have had on the working lives of thousands of New Zealanders. It examines the adequacy of the treatment, rehabilitation and support workers receive, their experiences at work, the effect of their condition on their family and colleagues, and the human and financial costs involved.

The Fit for Work report recognises that solutions to the challenges presented by musculoskeletal disorders require co-ordinated action across each of the stakeholder groups.

Download the Musculoskeletal Disorders and the New Zealand Labour Market Recommendations (PDF 956kb).

For more information on the Fit for Work Alliance contact