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signed off work back pain - my rights?

(7 Posts)
gummybears Tue 14-Oct-08 13:36:25

Am half way through the week and have been signed off by GP (supported by physio)due to serious backpain. Have been given painkillers, muscle relaxants but pain is caused by prolonged periods sitting at desk. Boss has refused to have ergonomic specialist look at workstation. Does anyone know of next steps/have experience of this?

Thank you

flowerybeanbag Tue 14-Oct-08 15:45:43

Not sure about an ergonomic specialist, but he certainly ought to get you a proper risk assessment done by whoever's responsible for H&S to identify how the desk can be adapted to enable you to come back to work.

Would your boss prefer you to stay off sick or something?

What is your GP recommending? How long has he signed you off for?

Not really sure what you're asking in terms of 'rights'. Is it your pay you are concerned about or what will happen if you can't go back?

gummybears Tue 14-Oct-08 17:11:37

have been signed off for a week but pain is a build up from sitting at desk and GP insisting on someone going into look at it. Boss has refused this in the past and just wondering how I go about seeing that it happens/what the legal standpoint is. Small co. so no HR dept.

Thank you for any advice!

flowerybeanbag Tue 14-Oct-08 19:01:34

So you've not actually asked him yet?

He's not at all obliged to get anyone external in, if that's what he's refused to do before. He is obliged to carry out health and safety risk assessments and to make arrangements to implement anything that is identified as necessary, and get someone competent to do that. 'Someone competent' doesn't mean paying for someone else to come in, he can do it himself or get someone else to do it. As a small employer he probably hasn't got lots of money floating about to chuck at expensive consultants to come in to do a risk assessment tbh, and as I say, there's no legal obligation to do so. I would imagine someone insisting on that might irritate him.

Get your GP to write to him if he/she hasn't already explaining that you will be signed off work sick until an appropriate H&S risk assessment is performed on your work station and the appropriate changes implemented.

I would be surprised if your boss would rather you be off sick indefinitely than do that, but you can't demand he pays someone external to do it.

Once you've done that, and he does the risk assessment or gets someone else to do it, if you/your GP are not happy that the necessary changes are being made and think your employer is exposing you to unnecessary risk, you can deal with it then, including considering reporting him to the Health and Safety Executive.

RuthT Tue 14-Oct-08 20:05:34

Agree with Flowery's last post.

The government's campaign on back pain could be of interest see here

You should also ask your GP to refer you to a physio, osteo or chiropracter as studies show that if you see someone within 2 weeks you are more likely to be on your feet faster.

It may also help if you start a conversation with the proactive bit as your back health is up to you as well as your line manager. Does you job involve lifting, moving and twisting, working without breaks or an uncomfortable working position? Can you avoid these situations?

Do you need to get up and away from your desk more frequently? Can you talk about how you can keep your back fit as well as requesting the assessment?

Has your manager carried out a dse assessment?

If he is worried about costs or simply does not know who to contact can you search and look for specialists and see what the range of costs are?

Do you have private health cover?

HSE website should contain more info on what the line managers responsibilities are.

morningpaper Tue 14-Oct-08 20:13:03

In a lot of ways, you are probably the best qualified person to assess your work for the back pain situation!

Being signed off with back pain can be the start of long-term sickness, TBH. Doctors are often not great at managing this.

What steps do YOU think your boss can do to help you? Do you think your chair is unhelpful? What about monitor size etc.? Have you tried a back-pain chair? What has your physio suggested? Can you offer to work from home?

What is your plan for this week, e.g. can you move around? Are you walking every day? For most back pain it is recommended that you walk 3 hours a week minimum - are you doing this?

As far as back pain is concerned, YOU need to take control of your treatment really. Otherwise you will end up off work and pretty damn miserable forever.

squiffy Wed 15-Oct-08 12:40:03

gb. I have a slight deformity in my neck which refers across my whole back and I know how tough it can be. Ended up at the hospital of Neurology, and have spent many a week wandering around in a neck support over the years.

However I think you need to be very very proactive in managing your own pain and try really hard to be positive.

Workstations are always going to be a problem - even the best designed ones. You need to move about physically away from your desk for 10 minutes every hour, make sure you look around briefly away from the screen every 10 minutes or so, and ask your boss for a supportive chair. There are also some basics regarding positioning of screen and so on that you can get off the internet. You don't need a specialist for this.

Aside from this you should try really hard to carry on as normal through your pain. Sounds crazy but I swear that it is the best way of stopping spasms and healing recovery. I have learnt that when you have these episodes you cannot avoid actually going through the pain bit - if you lie in bed for a while, you are only putting it off for another day. Far far better to get it over and done with because being in pain is too draining to put up with for more than the absolute minimum. I also find that going to work (much as I hate it - especially the agonizing train journey) take smy mind off the pain and also helps hugely. Obviously there are times when this is not possible (sometimes I have to take diazepam) but generally the more I ignore the pain, the quicker I recover.

Keep really positive and don't expect others to sort you out - this is one of those areas where you have to take responsibility for dealing with it, because there is no magic wand and you will get very frustrated if you believe that somehow if X and Y happens you will then be 'fixed', because you probably won't be. If it is something which recurs you will find that you start learning the 'signs' and can avoid episodes of pain, but you have to 'get to know' what is going on first, and that means 'facing up to your pain' and tuning into your body (sorry that I can't be more exact in my words but that is the best way I can describe it)

Other things you should think about: - see a physio for training on the appropriate excercises for you - think about acupuncture (helps me hugely) - try to vary/limit the painkillers that you take (too much ibubrufen can create stomach problems if you are intolerent) - ask chemist for a neck support if you think it will help (but use sparingly) - perhaps buy a tens machine (see what physio recommends) - think about some reflex or light massage to de-stress - and take excercise (when you can!)

Never thought I'd post all that in an employment thread! hope the above is of help to you, and hope I don't sound too patronising.

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