INTRODUCTION: Inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic conditions that might cause a severe impact on social life. The aim of the study was to assess employment, chronic work disability, and sick leave in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. METHODS: A postal questionnaire was sent to 984 patients with inflammatory bowel disease and 1504 controls. Age- and gender-adjusted employment and chronic work disability ratios and rates were calculated using indirect standardization. In subjects in paid employment, proportions of those having an episode of sick leave and lost workdays were analyzed. Logistic regression was used to assess the contribution of age, gender, education, and course of disease. RESULTS: The results of 680 (69%) patients and 715 (48%) controls could be analyzed. For the entire group of patients, employment was 6.5% lower, compared with controls (95% CI: 4.0-9.0). Chronic work disability was 17.1% higher than expected (95% CI: 15.1-19.1). In those in paid employment, 62% of patients compared with 53% of controls had experienced one or more episodes of sick leave during the past year (p = 0.002). This resulted in 19.2 versus 11.8 days of sick leave per subject per year for patients and controls respectively (p = 0.002). Relative to controls, the risk of chronic work disability was more increased in younger (p = 0.02) and higher educated (p = 0.02) patients. Course of disease contributed to chronic work disability and sick leave. CONCLUSION: IBD has a significant impact on labor force participation that is higher in CD compared with UC and highest in younger and more highly educated patients.