Lived experience of work and education with IBD
To successfully support employees with IBD, it is critical for employers to engage with the challenges of the disorder and make individually tailored accommodations. Too often, however, this doesn’t happen. People living with IBD have described quitting a job or being let go by their employer because suitable accommodations were not offered. This lack of understanding from employers and the failure to treat the issue seriously can often intersect with the feelings many people with IBD experience about their illness, such as embarrassment and anxiety. These feelings can lead to difficulties speaking openly with supervisors about the condition.
Worryingly, similar challenges are also present in the education sector. A cross-sectional survey in Germany found that over 60% of children with IBD had not disclosed the full details of their condition to their school. In addition, 57% of parents felt that their child’s time at school had been compromised because of IBD. It is important for educators to create open and supportive environments for students with IBD to minimise the disruption to their learning; without this, there could be long-term implications for their career prospects and overall income potential.
The economic benefits of change
Improving conditions for people with IBD is in everyone’s interests – from governments to companies to individuals. The economic burden of IBD is significant. In the US alone, experts estimated that the costs of IBD may have reached nearly $32 billion in 2014. While estimates range widely, indirect costs are known to account for a significant proportion of the financial burden of IBD. These costs are associated with loss of productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism, which negatively affect individuals, businesses and society. To reverse this trend, governments and companies should be acting to unlock the potential of people with IBD in the workforce.