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Thread: Attempted harrassment - forced return to work.

  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Employer tryiong to force a return to work before equipment provided


    I work for a Gov department. I have a disability which is centrered around chronic pain in my knees. This very much affects my mobility but also has an impact on my back and also mentally (I have been diagnosed as sufferring from Depression which I have been having treatment for over the past 5 years). My employer is fully aware of my condition. I have been in receipt of DLA since January 2011. I have worked for this department since 2003.

    Since November 2013 I had been reporting to my Team Leader that I didn't feel that the chair I had was suitable for me. I work in a telephone based role so I am sat down for the majority of the day.

    I had been given the chair almost 12 months earlier following an Occ Health Assessment.

    Finally in August 2014 I had a further Occ Health Assessment which identified that the chair was unsuitable as the seat was too small (front to back) and too much of my legs were hanging over the edge of the seat meaning there was insufficient support and this is what was causing the pain in my back.

    The assessor recommended the chair that I'd had previously prior to my previous assessment. The problem is that the previous chair I had was unsuitable as it has no lumbar support and the chairs seat was too big, so big that it dug into the back of my knees when I sat on it. As my chronic pain cndition is centered around my knees this caused considerable pain. It also prevented me from using my leg rest.

    Despite my protestations I was told by my employer that I have to have the recommended chair as they saw no reason not to accept the opinions of a trained occ health advisor. So they ordered the chair.

    My employer has a policy called 'Disability Adjustment Leave', this is normally used when you have medical appointments/treatments, or problems when changes are made to medications etc etc which are related to your disability. The time off is paid and it is considered to be a Reasonable Adjustment. It also covers time off for any period of time where the employer is unable to provide a safe workplace, or unable to provide a piece of necessary specialist equipmment , i.e. a specialist chair.

    My Union at work suggested to the employer that until the new chair was delivered that I should not be in work using a chair that was causing such severe back pain. My employer agreed and from the first week in October 2014 I was off work.

    The chair that they ordered was delivered the 3rd week in November and I was asked to return to work in order to try out the chair and hopefully get back to work.

    I went to work as agreed but as soon as I sat in the chair my Team Leader, along with a trained health and safety rep acknowledged that the chair was unsuitable. I didn't have to say anything it was clear from when I first sat in the chair. No amount of adjustment to the chair changed this fact.

    My Team Leader told me to go home as the chair was clearly unsuitable.

    At the request of my employer I arranged for a Workplace Assessment to be done by Access to Work in the hope that they could identify a suitable chair. I had this assessment in Early December 2014 and a chair was identified . I notified my employer of this and sent them a copy of the report in mid December when I received it.

    The department that orders the workstation items had the details of that report just before Christmas and have only recently, after many weeks of debate, decided that they will order the chair, but that it has to be done via the private company that they have a contract with (something about exclusivity with regards to office furniture)

    It will take between 4 and 6 weeks to arrive.

    I have now been off work 19 weeks (on full pay) except for the day I went in when the other chair arrived and a few odd days I have gone in for some training.

    Now, despite the chair not having been received, my employer has stated that they want me to return to work for 2-3 hours one day a week.

    I have said I am not happy to return until the new chair is received as I am not happy to use a chair which I know will hurt my back or my knees.

    They have said they cannot sustain me not being in work, but my argument is that had they listened to me in the first place when I told them that the chair they wanted to order was not suitable then all of this could have been avoided.

    I've done nothing to cause this issue and yet I am the one who faces disiplinary/loss of salary/termination f contract if I don't agree to go back.

    I asked what would happen if I severely hurt my back using my old chair and they said they wouldn't answer. The Union have said I should stand my ground but I have to be prepared to take this matter to a tribunal if they decide to suspend me/end my contract on grounds of capability/sack me.

    I'll be more than happy to go back to work once the new chair has arrived and I have told them this.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Last edited by dori2o; 03-02-15 at 14:31.

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