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Where do I Stand in regards to Workplace Law?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Health Safety Work Computers Workplace

Q.

My work has taken the chairs away from the computer area so we have to stand while working on the touch screens all day.

They are saying the chairs are luxuries, is there anything I can do?

(Miss Kat Hastings, 8 October 2008)

A.

Based solely upon the information you have given here, this would appear to be a case of your employer contravening the health and safety regulations as laid out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which state the following:

“A suitable seat shall be provided for each person at work in the workplace whose work includes an operation of a kind that the work (or a substantial part of it) can or must be done sitting.”

The key issue in this regard is the phrase ‘can be done sitting’ which is obviously the case as your query has indicated that this is how the work was done previously before the chairs were taken away. Therefore, it’s highly likely that your employer is breaking the law. Chairs certainly aren’t a ‘luxury’ as your employer refers to it.

Basically, any kind of workstation should be suitable for not only the work which is being carried out but also for the individual using that particular workspace which is why all workers who work sitting down in front of computers or similar equipment all day not only should be provided with a chair but one which is adjustable and which has been adjusted to suit the particular individual sitting at it at any given time. For example, it needs to support the lower back and footrests should also be provided if you’re unable to place your feet flat on the floor when you’re sitting down.

The first course of action would probably be to speak to your Health and Safety Officer or representative about this matter. However, if they refuse to get involved, you could then tell them that this is a contravention of the health and safety regulations and that you’ll be looking to take further action. This might include speaking to your trade union representative if you have one.

If the matter stays unresolved, you have a legal right as an employee to stop work and leave your workstation if you feel you have reasonable concerns for your health and safety and you can do this without your employer being able to take disciplinary action against you.

The next thing would be to take up the matter with the Health & Safety Executive and they have an information line you can call where you’ll be able to get specific advice. The number is 08453 450 055

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Sxh - Your Question:
Am a engineer, my work have now said everyone needs to complete a first aid course, I do not feel comfortable doing this can they force you into it when they already have staff who are first aid trained ?

Our Response:
Yes if this is a company policy you will be expected to attend especially if it's for your safety and your fellow colleagues.
SafeWorkers - 5-Dec-17 @ 2:20 PM
Am a engineer, my work have now said everyone needs to complete a first aid course, I do not feel comfortable doing this can they force you into it when they already have staff who are first aid trained ?
Sxh - 4-Dec-17 @ 5:02 PM
I used to work in a post office with chairs and everything was fine .i do suffer with a prolapse womb and standing is painful so having a chair was a necessity for me.now my bosses have put the post office into the shop and took away the chairs and im in constant pain .ive asked for a chair and they said theres no room for one and if i cant stand and do.the job i shouldnt be doing the job.ive been in this job for 8 years
Tracey Cooper - 15-Oct-17 @ 10:18 PM
I do 36 hours per week as a sales associate with most of my work being done via computers and on the phone. My company have provided me with a bar stool with no back support whatsoever!! Surely this can not be correct?
Dee - 4-Oct-17 @ 11:50 PM
Hello, Sorry if this is a long post. I had an OH assessment where they recommended an orthopaedic chair. I duly went through the process and had the Budget Manager approval for the expenditure.I left work citing I could do so without recourse until they ordered the correct chair. Unfortunately what was ordered was a cheap £70 chair that was worse in quality than the current office chairs! I complained and the folk have subsequently ordered another chair but does not have all the functions, such as seat slide and adjustable arm rests, that was quoted on my OH assessment as a requirement. All this because the chair I identified as adequate the business states is too expensive! Firstly, where does it state in law that I am allowed to remain off work until they sort out proper seating, I know it exists but cannot find the link.Secondly, what on earth do I do now?
JerryBun - 23-Aug-17 @ 8:27 AM
Sorry Mauro but "most people" are NOT on zero hours contracts!That is just plain silly to believe so. Most employers will accept that you need a reasonable work place adjustment, as long as you have medical evidence.
JohnFM - 23-Aug-17 @ 8:18 AM
It is actually ridiculous to read this andpretend workers have any right to refuse anything...ACAS ...HEALTHY AND SAFETY....they can not do anything at all...if your employer want staff to stand and you ask for chair ...you will only get fired...that is the only thing that it is going to happen...and then once you have lost your job nobody can do anything for you....why still writing these articles and make believe workers have any right....they don't ....most contarct are zero hours....what are we talking about?
Mauro Frigino - 9-Aug-17 @ 9:58 PM
Laur - Your Question:
I work in a office for 9.5 hours a day. We have partially broken office chairs which give no support to any part of my back unless im fully led back meaning I cannot do any work. I have spoken with both the owner and manager about the pain it is causing my back and they have refused to buy a new chair. I have to take painkillers daily, im 21 and dont want to screw my back up so young. What can I do?

Our Response:
Speak to trade union rep or follow your employer's usual grievance procedure if you're sure the chair is damaging your back. The Health and Safety Executive may also be able to provide advice.
SafeWorkers - 31-Jul-17 @ 2:35 PM
I work in a office for 9.5 hours a day. We have partially broken office chairs which give no support to any part of my back unless im fully led back meaning i cannot do any work. I have spoken with both the owner and manager about the pain it is causing my back and they have refused to buy a new chair. I have to take painkillers daily, im 21 and dont want to screw my back up so young. What can i do?
Laur - 28-Jul-17 @ 1:33 PM
I work 4~5 nightshifts a week as a night watch member of staff in a care home. We sit in a hallway on an uncomfortable chair for 9 hours a night. We dont get regular breaks as we are not aloud to leave our post for any length of time. I have mentioned to my boss a few times about the chairs being very uncomfortable and leaving me with a very sore coccyx which has resulted in me needing to take regular pain relief. I also just recently had a pilonidal abcess due to sitting for long periods of time. Due to me needing to take time off with ill health my employer decided to let me go today. I'm just wondering if I could go to citizens advice and find out whether I can sue my employer for negligence due to the uncomfortable chair? We dont even have foot stools and our chairs dont adjust either which ive read if you are sitting for long periods of time it should do. Who do I speak to regarding this matter?
Sam - 22-Jul-17 @ 1:52 AM
Hi , I work shifts one being 15.00 till 23.00. My last bus home (45mins to my home area) was 23.15pm but has been taken off timetable .My last bus now is 22.50pm so I am having to plead with co-worker to let me leave at 22.40 to get my last bus home .If not able to I have to get a taxi which I am struggling with financially as it costs me £12.50 which is well over my hourly rate of pay x 3-4 shifts a week. I worry about my finances which leads me to be anxious and stressed abot my work place . Can you advise me please .
Kel - 16-Jul-17 @ 12:45 PM
b - Your Question:
My employer has failed to complete a workplace risk assessment for my epilepsy and chronic migraines. I have not been allocated an appropriate desk to work from and keep getting moved (colleagues have their own desk). I had to ask a colleague to remove flurescent tubes from above my desk due to the constant bright glare. My manager said he was actioning an assessment - that was over 2 months ago, I'm not sure if he has done it.please advise of my legal rights to sue my employer

Our Response:
You will need to consult a legal professional for specific/individual legal advice sorry...we don't have all the facts to be able to advise on this kind of issue.
SafeWorkers - 3-Jul-17 @ 2:29 PM
My employer has failed to complete a workplace risk assessment for my epilepsy and chronic migraines. I have not been allocated an appropriate desk to work from and keep getting moved (colleagues have their own desk). I had to ask a colleague to remove flurescent tubes from above my desk due to the constant bright glare. My manager said he was actioning an assessment - that was over 2 months ago, I'm not sure if he has done it. please advise of my legal rights to sue my employer
b - 2-Jul-17 @ 6:39 PM
Jody - Your Question:
Hello, I work in the catering department in a private hospital and they have a coffee pod (as I call it) where I work and it's not very busy at times so I used to have a chair because I'm stuck in a corner for 8 hours of the day. A few weeks ago the chair was taken away as a punishment which my manager says it's not but telling me I may be able to get the chair back if it's up to standards is a punishment to me. So no I have to stand in a corner for my whole shift which I don't think is fair with only half hour break. I've gone to our hr but they have failed to help and asked repeatedly if I can have the chair back as it's giving me bad back and legs. They have also brought in I'm not aloud to drink water where I'm standing because it looks unprofessional yet the receptionist next to me can drink all the water, tea and coffee they like while sitting down. What action should I take and is this even aloud?

Our Response:
You should have access to water especially if you only have one half hour break where you can leave your work space. The law says that employers must supply suitable seats if workers are able to perform their duties, or a substantial part of them, sitting down. So if you feel your work can be done sitting down then you may be able to persuade your employer but only if they feel your job CAN be done sitting down. If your HR department is not up to speed with the regulations regarding water, you should contact your union rep.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jun-17 @ 11:24 AM
Hello, I work in the catering department in a private hospital and they have a coffee pod (as I call it) where I work and it's not very busy at times so I used to have a chair because I'm stuck in a corner for 8 hours of the day. A few weeks ago the chair was taken away as a punishment which my manager says it's not but telling me I may be able to get the chair back if it's up to standards is a punishment to me. So no I have to stand in a corner for my whole shift which I don't think is fair with only half hour break. I've gone to our hr but they have failed to help and asked repeatedly if I can have the chair back as it's giving me bad back and legs. They have also brought in I'm not aloud to drink water where I'm standing because it looks unprofessional yet the receptionist next to me can drink all the water, tea and coffee they like while sitting down. What action should I take and is this even aloud?
Jody - 23-Jun-17 @ 10:38 AM
before I came back to my old job I requested I needed a stand up desk to my back injury I had from a car accident in 2014. I have 4 slipped discs on my lower back and 3 compressed discs on my neck. my manager said it was fine. 3 weeks later from my start date we moved to a different site and they had no more stand up desks. my manager put a request in 3 days before our move that I needed a stand up desk and now that I'm here my back is literally killing me. I'm in constant pain and I'm starting to get a lot of muscle spasms. yesterday I asked my HR and Our supervisor from dispatch if the found out about my desk and HR said they didn't know and I never received an email back from our dispatch supervisor. I don't know what to do from here. any advise?
tulloa - 7-Jun-17 @ 2:19 PM
I have been working in my bosses converted garage for last 8 months, when I started I mentioned after a week my lower back was hurting and I believed I needed a lap top riser and foot rest as these had helped in my previous role. This fell on deaf ears and after a weekend of not being able to walk I took a ream of paper and used this which helped . However last week we needed the paper and so I have been sat with my chair to low / desk to high again my back is playing up and when I mentioned today I need a work space assessment and a foot rest she totally ignored me! It's a very small office with 4 people in so we don't have a health and safety rep just the 2 directors that are ignoring my health and safety needs. What can I do? Thanks
Em - 11-May-17 @ 9:09 PM
I work in the cateringindustry and sometimes it's quiet and we get told to sit out without pay are employers allowed to do this ? Example if I was to startat 5 n it's quiet ide be told to sit out till they deemed it time to start
Shrek - 10-May-17 @ 5:32 PM
Josie - Your Question:
Or the last 12 years I have worked 12 hour day 4 days on 4 days off then 3 days on and 5 days off now my boss wants to change my hours to 7am - 3pm and 3pm - 11pm and 11pm- 7am - I know I will get paid a night allowance but will, I be entitled to shift allowance and can they make me work nights ??

Our Response:
This depends on your contract and whether is stated specific start/end times and days. There is nothing in law that says you should be paid extra for working sifts are working nights.
SafeWorkers - 9-May-17 @ 2:05 PM
Or the last 12 years I have worked 12 hour day 4 days on 4 days off then 3 days on and 5 days off now my boss wants to change my hours to 7am - 3pm and 3pm - 11pm and 11pm- 7am - I know I will get paid a night allowance but will,I be entitled to shift allowance and can they make me work nights ??
Josie - 8-May-17 @ 12:58 PM
If you are on a 3 month probation period and you started on 26/01/17 and you are called to a meeting (not being told why) on 28/04/17 to be told that you haven't met expectations so you are now on a 1 week notice, is this acceptable as you have had no probation review meetings during this time and that your probation period ended 2 days before said meeting?
Ez - 30-Apr-17 @ 1:29 PM
Hi, I've had a back operation in 2011 and have a further herniated disc. I have a sit stand desk but my problem is sitting for 5 mins or more causes pain and numbers, and standing also causes this. I have breaks as often as I can but sometimes we've meetings for 3.5 hours which I can't just leave through. I've asked to work from home 25% of my disability? Are they going to say no to my request as they've taken reasonable strips to accommodate my
Jools199 - 6-Apr-17 @ 5:23 PM
Hi, I have worked in my workplace for 6 years in which we were provided with chairs. All of a sudden they have decided to take the chairs off us with no explaination. We do not get proper breaks which was ok when we had a seat but now it is really hard to stand for 8 hours a day. I have arthiritis in my knees which has made this even harder. Is it legal for them to do this to us? Thanks.
Dani - 27-Mar-17 @ 9:16 PM
Hi there. I work at an office, computer/chair all that jazz. The health & safety responsible just came over to tell me off for sitting on my leg. (one leg on the ground, the other underneath me, if that makes sense) Now, I'm aware of the correct way to sit at the desk, but I also thought that once that gets uncomfortable you're allowed to shift positions. I told them I wasn't comfortable with them telling me how to position my body, and I was given a standard 'we're responsible for your health and the equipment used correctly'. So, do they have a right to tell me how I should be sitting? Or is it a case of it being a guideline that should be followed?
Jess - 20-Feb-17 @ 12:06 PM
My hours have been cut from 10 to8 I've done 10 for a long long time. I work in private club where bar staff all have 10 hours. However a lady has left so I got them a new bar person instead of taking off every one they took them off me. One of the ladies has not been there a year got the hours of the now left bar person which gives her 16 hours. I've been at the club for 6years. I had a word with the steward she said il try and claw them back for you but it's only an hour you are owed cos everyone does 9. What can I do about this the new lady got my 2 hours I'm not pleased at all. We only have a treasurer of the club whom I'm trying to see to day about it.
Maz - 13-Feb-17 @ 12:14 PM
I gave my Doctor's Note for a new chair back in September and I have checked recently with them about what is going on, and the reply I got was sorry we have been busy they will get on to it straight away- this was 3 weeks ago. My back pain has noticeably increased to the point where I do not want to go in, can I sue my work for this?
Gina - 2-Feb-17 @ 10:09 AM
I was hit several times by a dementia patient while be observed by the trainer who did not intervene til the last minute. I went to the urgent care centre who said i had bruised ribs had xray and found i have more damage in my spine. Went back to work to be told basically it was my faulti got hit and have ordered me a padded body warmer to wear when helping this patient . could i have some advice please
Nutty professor - 27-Dec-16 @ 1:33 PM
Justme - Your Question:
Hi, I was forced to sit on a stylish, designer chair in the reception of the company's new office. This was in 2012. I was pregnant at the time. I complained that the chair was uncomfortable and was causing me lower back pain. They took me off to a home store and let me pick out a luxurious cushion that would serve as my back support. The pain continued throughout that year and I saw a physio who couldn't do anything about it as I was pregnant. I was also told that the back pain might go away after the baby was born. I continued to have back pain up until a year ago when I finally got physio treatment and it is now a lot better but often I get severe boughts of pain in my back and it restricts my freedom to do things. In June or July 2014 I spoke with the temp who was my maternity cover and then later became permanent, she mentioned to me about the pain she experienced in her back from the reception chair when she started temping and that she had been adamant that they change the chair to a proper office chair. After a few days they complied and replaced the chair. I think because she was agent staff, they were forced to take her complaint seriously. Do I have a claim against the company on this? Many thanks.

Our Response:
Sorry but you would need to see an injury claims lawyer for advice on this.
SafeWorkers - 25-Nov-16 @ 2:10 PM
Hi, I was forced to sit on a stylish, designer chair in the reception of the company's new office. This was in 2012. I was pregnant at the time. I complained that the chair was uncomfortable and was causing me lower back pain. They took me off to a home store and let me pick out a luxurious cushion that would serve as my back support. The pain continued throughout that year and I saw a physio who couldn't do anything about it as I was pregnant. I was also told that the back pain might go away after the baby was born. I continued to have back pain up until a year ago when I finally got physio treatment and it is now a lot better but often I get severe boughts of pain in my back and it restricts my freedom to do things. In June or July 2014 I spoke with the temp who was my maternity cover and then later became permanent, she mentioned to me about the pain she experienced in her back from the reception chair when she started temping and that she had been adamant that they change the chair to a proper office chair. After a few days they complied and replaced the chair. I think because she was agent staff, they were forced to take her complaint seriously. Do I have a claim against the company on this? Many thanks.
Justme - 24-Nov-16 @ 12:22 PM
JaneC - Your Question:
Thank you for your reply to my previous message. As far as I know, there is no appointed health & safety executive where he works. It is just my boyfriend and the couple who own the business. As far as I know they have never provided him with a contract. Please can you advise where to go from here. I persuaded him to join the Unite union yesterday, so am hoping they can support him in this too.

Our Response:
The health and safety executive is a government body - we posted a link to it in our last response, please contact them.
SafeWorkers - 17-Nov-16 @ 11:59 AM
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