Q: My health has deteriorated due to carpal tunnel syndrome. My doctor thinks it may be related to signing with deaf pupils all my working life. I love my work, but don’t think I can carry on much longer if things continue in the same way. What should I be doing or saying to my employer?
The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already, is tell your employer that your work is making you ill. Your employer is legally obliged to provide a safe working environment and should therefore take your communication seriously.
The second thing you need to do is ask your employer to meet his/her obligations under health and safety legislation and assess the risks to your health while you are at work. If your employer is not sure how to go about this, your workplace health and safety rep (assuming you have one) should be able to help.
Once the obvious and hidden risks to your working environment and/or practices have been identified, your employer will need to refer you to its occupational health services for:
a) confirmation that your condition has arisen out of and in the course of your employment, andFinally, if you are fit to work, ask your employer for suitable alternative employment until reasonable adjustments have been made to your working environment to make it safe.
b) a list of the steps which your employer could take either to remove or reduce the negative impact of the working environment on your health.
If your GP says you are unfit to work, however, you will be entitled to up to six months’ full pay separately from your entitlements under the sick pay scheme, assuming of course that there is a link between your condition and your working environment and that the Burgundy Book forms part of your contract of employment.
Once your employer takes the steps necessary to make your working environment safe and you are fit to do so, you should ask to attend a return to work interview, at which your NUT rep should be present. During the interview, you may ask your employer for a phased return to work. Whatever is agreed should be confirmed in writing.