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Struggling to work with arthritis – workplace disability discrimination

Struggling to work with arthritis – workplace disability discrimination
According to the charity Arthritis Research UK, around 600,000 people with arthritis are missing out on the opportunity to work.

Arthritis is a condition which causes painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints, affecting around 10 million people in the UK. However, many people are trying to juggle staying in work whilst living with the painful and incapacitating condition.

Arthritis Research UK conclude that Britain is a nation that "puts up and shuts up" when it comes to workplace health due to people's willingness to suffer in silence. 39% of people who took part in their survey said that they didn't feel confident discussing their health matters with their employer, whilst 33% of people thought that their colleagues wouldn't understand the impact of their arthritis.

Christine Lewis, now a volunteer for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, says employers are missing out on a "wealth of experience." Christine took medical retirement at the age of 48 despite believing that she still had a number of working years ahead of her. However, without the necessary adjustments being made in the office to help her manage her arthritis condition, she felt she had no choice but to give up her job.

Lawson-West Solicitors Employment Paralegal Sejal Patel comments: "Often whilst working, people who are suffering with long term conditions like arthritis are not aware of their rights under the Equality Act 2010. Many employers simply do not understand the true extent of how life debilitating arthritis can be. Normal daily work tasks and activities can become impossible. But minor changes to an employee’s desk and workstation are often not enough.

Under the Equality Act the main definition of disability is a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-today activities.”

“Substantial” means something more than minor, but that could fluctuate and may not be present all the time. “Long term” means the effect of the impairment has to last, or is likely persist for at least 12 months. “Day-to-day activities” means everyday activities for most people, such as using a computer, writing, sitting down and standing up.

If you are suffering from arthritis or a long term condition which has a serious negative affect on your daily activities, then your rights are covered under the Equality Act 2010. Your employer has a duty to treat you fairly and must make reasonable adjustments to enable you to work which could involve providing additional equipment, support or altering your working arrangements to ensure that you are not at a disadvantage when compared to others. Importantly your employer cannot dismiss you or force you to take early retirement because of your disability.”

If you think you have been subject to discrimination, please contact Lawson-West Solicitors on 0116 212 1000 to speak to a member of the Employment Law team.

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