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Psoriasis and Employment
Psoriasis can have an impact on your professional as well as personal life. Find out more about psoriasis and employment.
People with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis can sometimes find that their condition has an effect on other parts of their lives - notably, their work. Changes may need to be made in order to effectively manage their condition at work, and they may be asked questions about their health when starting a new job. Although there are certain occupations that could cause problems for people with psoriasis, these are very few; many professional avenues are open to people with psoriasis, especially when given the support they need from their employers.
Tips for managing psoriasis at work
- Educate your employer and colleagues about your condition. Although psoriasis awareness is increasing, there are still many people who do not know what it is, or do not understand the extent of the condition. People who work in occupations that involve direct contact with the customer (e.g. checkout operatives, hairdressers, children’s nursery assistants) may experience wary looks or unkind comments from customers or colleagues. Explain that psoriasis is not contagious or infectious, but also be honest about how it might affect your abilities, the way it may make you feel, and the time-consuming nature of certain treatments. The Psoriasis Association can provide you with materials to help with this.
- Work with your employer to find solutions to help you do your job and manage your psoriasis at the same time. This might include working more flexible hours to accommodate medical appointments, extra sets of uniforms, protective clothing (e.g. gloves) to prevent worsening patches of psoriasis, or facilities to apply emollients.
- Don’t forget the importance of moisturising your skin throughout the day. Dispense some of your moisturiser into a small pot that you can keep in your office, bag or locker, meaning you can then apply the moisturiser whenever it is convenient. If you regularly travel or stay away from home, you could also keep a separate moisturiser in your travel bag, to ensure you always have it with you.
- Moisturise with a lighter cream in the morning and a thicker ointment when going to bed. This should help to keep your skin moisturised, but also mean you don’t feel greasy throughout the day.
- It is understandable that you may wish to cover up your psoriasis for work or certain meetings or events. There are a number of camouflage products to help you do this, available either on prescription from a GP or via organisations such as Changing Faces.
The Armed Forces have strict policies on recruiting people with health conditions. Widespread psoriasis is stated as a condition that precludes (prevents) entry to the army, RAF and navy. There are a number of reasons for this; service personnel often spend long periods in harsh conditions, with limited medical facilities, and experience periods of high mental and physical stress. A severe psoriasis flare-up could be debilitating, preventing that person from carrying out their duties and therefore putting themselves and others in danger. If your psoriasis is mild and you are considering a career in the Armed Forces, you should get in touch with the relevant careers centre to discuss your application.
Organisations in the food handling industry are cautious about employing people with skin conditions. The Food Standards Agency’s Fitness to Work Guidelines (2009) state that no person with a skin infection or open sores, or suffering from a disease that is likely to be transmitted through food, should be permitted to handle food or enter a food handling area. Psoriasis is not infectious or contagious, and tends not to harbour bacteria or produce open sores. If the psoriasis is in an uncovered area, it can be easily covered by a distinctive, coloured dressing to ensure a person with the condition is fit to work in food handling.
People with psoriasis on their hands may find repeated hand-washing, wet work and cold conditions may make it worse, and so should work with their employer to ensure protective gloves are available.
Physical, Outdoor, Construction
Cold or overly warm weather, wind, rain, and many industrial materials and chemicals can all worsen psoriasis. It’s important, therefore, for the individual worker to know their limits and, again, work with their employer to ensure relevant protective clothing is available. However, the presence of psoriasis should not be a reason to not employ someone in this area.
Again, the continuous hand-washing required to comply with hygiene standards may make psoriasis on the hands worse, but it may be possible to manage this through regular moisturising breaks. People who work in the medical professions must report any skin condition which makes it difficult to carry out hand hygiene procedures. They may require support from their superiors whilst they receive treatment, and may need to be moved to non-clinical duties for a period of time.
Anecdotally, leading psoriasis experts have stated that psoriasis is not particularly prone to infection or harbouring bacteria, however, any open wounds could pose a risk in a medical setting, and so should be covered. Patients may be wary of being treated by someone with a visible skin condition, and so it may be good practice to keep psoriasis covered by clothing or dressings, or to explain to patients what the condition is and that it is not contagious.
The professional bodies listed below publish guidance on hygiene, infection control and professional standards which can be consulted on this issue. Although careful planning and management is needed to ensure hygiene and safety standards are met by an employee with psoriasis; in most cases it is not a reason to not pursue a medical career.
The information on this page is also available in our employment issues information sheet.