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disability at work/absence from work/reasonable adjustments - advice needed

(9 Posts)
PavlovtheCat Sat 12-Dec-15 13:44:47

I have a lower back problem which has been an issue for a long time now and will always be so. prognosis is unknown in terms of deterioration, but certainly not getting better/slowly getting worse for now.

I work in an operational role government, i.e. I see face to face clients, along with desk work. I have pretty good adjustments in place. My employers have historically been supportive; some managers better at this than others. Likewise, as a result, I have remained committed to my job, always work whenever I can, even when in some discomfort (to be fair that's most of the time), always give my job my all whenever I am able. Occupational Health have consistently deemed me to be fit to do my job as required, although I will remain subject to periods of relapse and subsequent absences, 'the frequency and length of which cannot be predicted'.

In the building I work in, there are numerous security/fire doors that are opened by swiping identity cards and pushing/pulling as usual; no automatic openings. I am finding the doors increasingly difficult to open due to the impact on my lower back, and naturally find myself using my upper back more to open doors (at work and elsewhere). There is approximately 14 doors from my desk, to an interview room, and back to my desk again. Four doors to the loo and back to my desk. I mentioned this a few years ago, before we split into two different companies, and nothing was done, but was not hugely problematic then, apart from during the one particularly bad relapse that led me to mention it, and which I got over eventually (til the next one) over the years I have sort of just accepted they are hard to open and adjusted the way I do it, or rely on colleagues to help whenever I can.

Anyway, back pain is worse than ever, and added to the mix is neck/upper back pain. Dr says likely due to changing how to do everyday things that would normally rely on my lower back muscles to using my upper back muscles, for which they are not designed.

I have spoken to my boss that the doors are heavy, confirmed it in email, and stressed the higher impact this is having now on my back pain increasing through the day. Agreed the doors needed to be looked at, to see if they can be adjusted to ale them lighter to open, for example.

Due to the building being 'leased' by another company (used to be part of our employer, now privatised), an OH referral had to be requested, to identify this as a need to be looked at, took a few weeks. Week before the appointment I was off with another relapse. The week of the appointmentt I was back at work but in a lot of pain. Then, after that, I have been off again, due to back and upper back/neck pain being unbearable.

The OH report confirmed that the doors are problematic, and that they need to be addressed, by getting an engineer or similar to identify how they can be fixed, suggested Access to Work to look at how they are designed.

Now. my problem is, the doors have not been fixed to date, although my boss has not confirmed this yet (I emailed on friday, so not huge notice). I am expected to return to work on Monday as my sick note ends, although my GP suggested longer off. As we all know, it's not that simple, work needs doing, clients need supporting, so do colleagues, as christmas is busy. I think, that, if I didn't have to contend with the doors, I would be significantly more ready to return to work.

Sorry that's long. I wanted all info so as not to drip feed. My question is, if my boss confirms the doors have not yet been fixed, and/or no other alternative option put in place to address the situation with the doors that will help me return to work, if I stay off work sick, is this classed as sickness absence, or can I ask for it to be considered as Disability Leave, as with the adjustments made, I would be fit to return to work? I guess OH will need to see me again to confirm that I would be fit to return to work if the doors were changed/made accessible?

PavlovtheCat Sat 12-Dec-15 14:06:23

It's really far too long isn't it? Shall I summarise?

If I am off sick from work due to a reasonable adjustment not having yet been in place, can this be counted as disability leave?

there. that's better isn't it? grin

Shakey15000 Sat 12-Dec-15 22:17:50

I'm not an expert in these things. But are you "officially" classed as having a disability/disabled through your medical back problem(s)?

FannyGlum Sat 12-Dec-15 22:35:02

The Equalities Act defines a disability as any physical or mental health condition that causes long term (12 months +) and substantially effects your ability to do day to day things

Shakey15000 Sun 13-Dec-15 09:15:19

I guess you could request it as Disability Leave. How is DL worded in your policy? I'm just wondering if not returning because of the doors would qualify? As opposed to taking DL to adjust to a new symptom (upper back)

Either way, it's worth requesting. As an aside, is there an office that has less doors to toilet area/customers that you could work from? Though I'm assuming you've already investigated this possibility smile

PavlovtheCat Sun 13-Dec-15 22:21:23

HI shaky yes, recognised as a disability at work, under the equalities act, OH have identified it as meeting the criteria and have done for last 3 years or so, and employers recognise it in terms of having made reasonable adjustments, I have two separate sickness records, one 'normal' for usual sickness and one specifically linked to disability sickness absence.

PavlovtheCat Sun 13-Dec-15 22:26:05

re another office, no. However, I have asked, and will pursue tomorrow when I return to work whether I can 'book out' a specific interview room for a number of days/hours per week (a substantial amount of my work is client based) and work straight from the room, meaning, only a couple of doors each way. It does mean I will be isolated from my team (and any other colleagues) for those hours, which has been why it has not been explored as an option, but it's better than many doors to open and close many times a day.

The main problem with that is that I have a hydraulic desk that allows me to stand/sit dependent on my pain levels and need to change positions, and a specialist chair. I can get someone to take the chair down, but the desk will be a problem, and I will find it difficult to sit for hours at a normal desk, even with getting up and moving about. It's worth a go though.

PavlovtheCat Sun 13-Dec-15 22:28:22

it just fills me with dread having to push and pull so many doors. Its embarrassing too, as i clearly struggle to manage them and just reminds me and everyone else of my health problems. colleagues obviously help when they are able to, they don't just watch me struggle! but they aren't always able to get the door even if they can see me struggling with them.

HeyMacWey Mon 14-Dec-15 12:44:39

When I had an oh assessment I remember that the oh said that ny employers could employ a pa and they could do up to 10% of my work - I'm wondering if this might be worth looking at as a temporary arrangement - ie someone to open doors for you.

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