In the grand scale of things, my medical needs are pretty low compared to others and my disabilities require very few adjustments in order for me to be able to work. I need a desk away from any air conditioning and I need to be in a darkened area of the office.
However, it took my company 85 days to find me a suitable desk to work from in their offices (or 9 months, if you want to be more critical..) and it only happened after I directly emailed the CEO of my company saying I had been refused a desk since my return to work.
I wrote recently about how I don’t feel disabled enough. I don’t know how this situation would have playing out if I was more visibly or physically disabled. It might have ran in my favour – if I was in a wheelchair, I couldn’t be forced to climb stairs – or, worryingly, it might have taken even longer – if someone didn’t have the little fight in them that I do to argue back about it.
I confirmed my return date to work (11th January 2022) last summer, in July 2021. Work knew about my return to the office six months before I came back. They have also known about my eye condition since I lost my vision in 2019, whilst working at the company, and that I have lived with trigeminal neuralgia since 2015, about 9 months before I started working for them.
I have always been given a suitable desk in work, minus a brief period in about 2018 when my desk was plagued by a rogue air conditioning unit!
In the UK, under the Equality Act, you have a legal right to reasonable adjustments in your place of work, otherwise your company is unlawfully discriminating against you. If you want to read more about ‘reasonable adjustments’, you can do so by clicking here to be redirected to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
I have been passed back and forth since my first day back from maternity leave, each department needing to check with another – IT needing to check with the facilities team, HR awaiting a request from my manager, then back around again. I have enjoyed working from home, but I can’t work from home full time and I shouldn’t have to. Every other employee in my company gets a desk and I shouldn’t be treated any less favourably, just because my desk needs to be facing a wall, or because it needs to be out of reach of the air conditioning unit.
If I was a fully able bodied employee, I would have been offered a desk upon my return to work in January.
Another volunteer over at the TNA UK pointed out that perhaps we don’t do ourselves favours when we struggle through working in pain. If our jobs are being done, our managers are not under pressure to react quickly and help us. This is definitely true. It’s hard to break the habit of just getting on with it, especially when your whole life involves being in a lot of pain and just getting on with it! Because I have done my job from home, no one has been in any rush to help me, despite me needing a desk. I have been working on a laptop with a small screen, without access to a printer and without access to the post room we have at work, meaning I’ve been unable to order booklets that I need for my job, send out booklets and letters, or even see my screen properly.
I reached the end of my tether of being treated like I didn’t matter and emailed the CEO of my company directly, received a reply and was given a desk within 2 days. His PA pointed out that she couldn’t believe it had got to the point where I needed to contact the highest point in the company just to be given a desk.
There are thousands of people just like me out there who are not receiving their legal rights of reasonable adjustments at work, which is why I’m starting a new series about working with a hidden disability; not just my experiences, but your rights, what you should be talking to your work about, what you should be asking for and a practical guide to tackling employment with a health condition no one can see.
Check back for more posts about working with a disability, coming very soon!
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