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Can my work do that?

(17 Posts)
ilovemulberry Tue 16-Jul-13 09:33:07

I'm 30 weeks pregnant and am suffering from bad back ache from being sat at my desk all day. HR said they would order me a back support, however my boss has refused to authorise this as he is cost cutting!! If I want it I must get a letter from my doctor. I can't believe it, I felt like crying out of shock! Can they actually refuse this?

Bunnylion Tue 16-Jul-13 09:47:44

Sorry but it sounds reasonable to me to have a letter from your doctor to say that you need it before they buy it.

I wouldn't expect my office to buy anything for me that might not be essential. I'm sure your doctor will give you a letter if you just ask them. With that letter then it would be very unreasonable for them to refuse to buy it.

Have you had a maternity massage during your pregnancy? I had one around 30 weeks and it was very relaxing and really helped my back too.

ExhaustedMamasita Tue 16-Jul-13 10:16:06

All pregnant women are legally entitled to get a risk assessment done in the UK. If indeed your back is hurting because of your seating arrangements at work, you’re entitled to some form of back support – with or without a doctor’s note. By the sounds of it your boss is being an ass, just send him and HR this link: www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/pregnancy.htm. Surely a simple back support would be cheaper than a full blow risk assessment? I tried that tactic with my work. I began experiencing a few back pains so work bought me a swiss ball to sit on which seems to have helped.

Andanotherthing123 Tue 16-Jul-13 10:16:13

I don't know about the legalities but I would be irritated if my work said I needed a letter from my doctor. Employers have an obligation to look at how employees sit, screen height, chair height etc as part of health and safety rules. When I had mine, my work advised me to get a wrist support bar to avoid developing an RSI. They didn't wait for me to develop it, then suggest I go to the drs to get a letter...sounds like you'll have to play along but I for one think you have every right to feel angry.

Champagnebubble Tue 16-Jul-13 10:17:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

snickersnacker Tue 16-Jul-13 10:43:14

Sorry that you've had this experience but I'm afraid that this is perfectly legitimate, and IMO not unreasonable. What if the back support doesn't help? The problem might be the height of your monitor, for example. You are entitled to a risk assessment so insist on that, conducted by a proper occupational therapist; your boss will then have no choice but to comply with your needs.

ilovemulberry Tue 16-Jul-13 12:32:49

Thanks all. It's a very family run company (don't get me wrong it's a multi million pound a year company) so I just thought they would be more understanding. Ill just have to take more time off to go to the doctors I guess!

Fuba Tue 16-Jul-13 13:18:28

I went into B&M's yesterday - And I saw they had back supports in (exactly the same as one of my pregnant work friends is using fo the same reason as you) ... You could always buy your own and then you can take it with you and use it wherever you go .. i think they were relativley cheap about £5 if I remember right!

PurplePoppySeed Tue 16-Jul-13 13:49:56

I'm not sure - my work said that they had to do a risk assessment for me and that includes flagging the needs for things such as foot rest, back support, different chair, wrist rests etc? Maybe they are going above and beyong the minimum, but I'd have thought it's part of health and safety in work and without it you could be at risk of being in further pain and potentially off work if it's PGP - does your boss really want that? There should be someone in your office trained to do a risk assessment and they are the ones that would confirm your need surely?

purpleaura Tue 16-Jul-13 14:31:50

My physio suggested that a rolled up towel makes a really good back support. Might be a handy no-cost short-term solution? Worth a try anyway.. good luck with it smile For what its worth, I think your boss is being an ass.

Claire5517 Tue 16-Jul-13 16:31:20

Every employer is legally required to complete a risk assessment, if a risk is identified then they are legally required to minimise that risk. Part of the reason of completing a RA is to cover themselves as your employers as well. Is there a specific type of back support you have asked for?

chocolatesolveseverything Tue 16-Jul-13 18:07:02

As others have said, you are legally entitled to a risk assesment. In your case, back pain is a significant risk to your health whilst at work and therefore your employer is obliged to take reasonable steps to reduce it. However, most employers aren't medically trained and therefore it is reasonable for them to get professional advice before paying out for equipment. In most cases this would be done by an occupational health advisor, but I assume your work doesn't hace access to one?

However from your post it's possible that this is as much about a line manager playing power games and deliberately being awkward as it is about assessing your exact needs, so I'd advise you to comply with their request, but stay assertive. If the doctor wants payment for the letter, then the company should reimburse you. And once you have evidence that the chair is needed, then it should be provided for you asap - no dithering.

In the meantime if the pain gets too much for you at work, then by all means call in sick and explain why. It may give your manager an incentive not to let this drag on!

sunflowered Tue 16-Jul-13 18:42:40

I had to do equality and diversity training today from which I learned that:
1) pregnant women are a 'protected group' in terms of e&d
2) employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to enable people in protected groups to do their job. If they employed someone who used a wheelchair or needed a special computer screen because of visual impairment then I assume the company would expect to make these adjustments, they wouldn't offer someone a job on condition that they paid for a ramp to be installed.
I interpreted these points as meaning that if a pregnant woman needed something like a backrest, it's the employer's responsibility to make an adjustment to my working environment ie cough up wink

sunflowered Tue 16-Jul-13 18:43:52

that reads a bit confusing - meant to say on condition that the wheelchair user pays

Queazy Tue 16-Jul-13 19:39:25

If HR assessed you and said you needed it, I think it's poor practice for your boss to cite cost cutting as a reason not to buy it. I'm assuming sickness absence caused by back pain would be more costly. I'd follow due process though and get the letter if that will support the case. I don't think it's 'unreasonable' per se to check the requirement - it doesn't really serve to make you feel valued or treated in a compassionate/ empathic way but sounds like money is very tight.

ilovemulberry Tue 16-Jul-13 21:43:09

Thanks everyone it was more a point of feeling undervalued I think! However I made an emergency appointment as I have been having bad pelvic pain too, which the dr has put down to posture and written my manager a note asking him to get me a back support. Looking forward to work tomorrow now!!

chocolatesolveseverything Tue 16-Jul-13 22:42:34

You put that manager in their place! smile

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