Numerous patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) end their working career due to consequences of the disease. No publication has reported whether there is an independent association between patients' health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and employment status. The objective of the study was to investigate the association of paid work and HRQOL in patients with RA whilst controlling for demographics and disease severity. This was a cross-sectional study. Three hundred and ten patients were consecutively recruited from two Norwegians hospitals when commencing disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug treatment. Data on demographics, employment status, disease activity (DAS28-3), physical functioning, pain, tiredness, and HRQOL (SF-36) were collected. HRQOL were compared between 123 patients working full- or part-time and 187 patients not working due to disability pension, retirement, being students or “home workers”. The regression analyses showed an independent positive association between paid work and the physical (p = 001) and the mental component (p = 012) of the SF-36 when controlling for demographics and disease severity. Paid work was statistically significantly associated with better HRQOL in patients with RA. The positive association of performing paid work and HRQOL imply that health care providers should thoroughly evaluate the possibilities for the patients to continue with paid work.