I’m at my wits’ end

Question: Yet again I’m at my wits’ end with my ***!!!@@! desk set up. Coming back from a week’s holes (parole?) at home has driven the point in, though to be honest I dreaded coming back anyway.  Have given up with (new) GP who I went to ask for help  “see the Citizen’s Advice Bureau”, he said after I asked if they could assist with Occupational Therapists (what are they, we don’t refer to them) or any other treatments/drugs (no). What can you do to help then, because I can’t carry on like this… (resounding silence from GP).

Quote from GP  you know, I’d almost say this was RSA (yes, A) but that only happens in wrists…. I’m saying nothing about my sympathies with the GPs’ current (political) moans …  So I went to see CAB, who didn’t know any more than I already knew, and could only advise me to get myself sacked through taking sick leave rather than resign and then pursue a legal/IT claim. Great  but what I want to do is get this dratted desk and chair sorted out so that I can carry on working without being in pain. Then maybe the problem might settle down and cure itself.  Anyways, questions……

1. Under H&S and/or disability law, is my employer duty bound to get someone in to assess my needs or just to provide suitable equipment? What’s the definition of suitable? What happens when they say to me  “well, you tell us what you need and we’ll get it”  because I don’t know any more what I need, nor where to get it  else I’d have done so already…

Given the incredible difficulties I’m having finding a chair that works for me and doesn’t cause pain, and in general in working out how I should organize my work, sit and use the desk, keyboard, etc, this is the area I need help with  I can’t sues it out anymore, and not for want of thinking and trying…. I know things are still wrong but I can’t solve them. Nor can I source the equipment that I think I want. Must the employer provide that help if I ask? If so, how do I ask, and what for?

2. Irrespective of the answer to the above, where do I (or my employer) find such an expert, even if I end up paying for one myself? I need one that can really look at what I have to do as part of my job and also understand exactly what movements/positions are causing me pain and problems. Access to Work sent 2 so called experts and they were rubbish, clearly not understanding the problems I was having and knew no more than what we all do about the standard positions/diagrams for keyboard use  great if you’re a typist but useless at actually solving my particular situation  what they suggested actually made them worse, and because of that they’ve refused to help any more because I don’t seem to fit into their one wonder chair cures all philosophy (I’ve tried 2 supposed postural ergonomic chairs and they both make the pain worse, and they can’t understand that).

My physio seems to understand the basic problems that I’m having, as do many people, but noone can point me to someone who can actually solve them, and noone can tell me what I need to put the situation right. Nor can anyone actually tell me what’s wrong with me in terms of why the pain’s there or how to put it right  The crazy thing is that subject to stamina and muscle recovery, I’m fine (ish) as long as I don’t have to sit at this dratted desk/chair  it seems to be a terribly specific problem which comes on when I do what I have to do for work … which says to me that the right combination of equipment and maybe a change in working practices should mean I can carry on. But where do I find someone that might be of positive help here? How do I find someone that can really tell me what I need to sort out my particular set of physical problems?

3. The GP has actually offered to write to my employers, although he freely admitted this might make the situation worse. If I take him up on the offer, what do I want him to say, and does this have any bearing on my legal/employment/disability rights? What I don’t want to happen, of course, is for my employer to decide that I’m not fit to work or that I’m about to disappear on long term sick and hence try to get rid of me  irrespective of legal rights I can’t afford for that to happen.

4. If I did however decide that enough’s enough and I can’t stand working any more, is there any form of retraining or career change financial and advisory assistance out there for disabled persons (how I hate using that term applied to myself). I’ve spoken to the local Employment Service Disability people and they didn’t know, but didn’t think so, neither did CAB. All they could tell me about was what benefits I could claim  not a lot of use as I can’t afford to…

5. If I decided that I could only carry on working parttime, do my employers have to accept this or can they say that the job’s only suitable for a full timer and therefore dismiss me?

Answer: I really feel for you being in a similar position myself. I too seem to have received no support from either the H&S department or company doctor. “Go and see what you can find”  what good is that to me? Also the fact that I’m going off in 7 weeks for maternity leave is not in my favor  I suppose at the back of their minds is the thought that I’ll just decide to not come back and they won’t have to do anything! Well  we’ll see…  I’ve had a swift search on the net  I’m sure I was reading something to do with disability discrimination not too long ago  it may be that I’ve printed it out. I’ll have a search through and come back to you.

However… I have a gut feeling that if you’re no longer physically able to do the job you are doing, your company has some obligation to find you another job if your problems have been caused by your current job (does that make sense?). We have someone here who went from one job to another because she could no longer do her other job. I know it’s not the solution you’re after  none of us want to be labeled disabled  but if your company did sack you for going on long term sick leave providing you’ve done everything you can from your end (which it sounds to me like you’ve done more than you should have to…) then you’ve got them by the short and curlier. It’s clearly unfair dismissal and no judge will see in their favor (hopefully!).

I think the key to your problem may lie in this “disabled” label  have you been properly diagnosed with a RSI problem (Tendonitis etc.) With that label your employer has then got to be very careful  they can’t discriminate against you in any shape or form.  I’ve had a quick look at the H&SAW site and everything seems to be detailed as “where reasonably possible”  however, I think your work have to be seen to be doing everything possible to make your situation better. If they just turn their backs on you and ignore you then they’ve fallen at the first hurdle. I’ll ask my chappie (PI Solicitor) and see what he thinks  I don’t think he’s actually ever had any RSI cases  they only just seem to be coming to the forefront  but he may have some ideas / suggestions etc. that might help you.

Don’t give up Clare  you can’t let them win! I recently started to regret being pregnant as then I thought they might have done more to help me but I doubt it. So instead I’m looking forward to being a first time mum (providing I have no pain when trying to pick her up etc.) and fighting the battle with work when I come back.  Sorry if this drivel has been of no help whatsoever  hopefully I should have a little more info for you when I come back. Surely though there’s someone on this list who can shed some light on your questions.

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