My Employer Has Taken My Chair Away – What is the Law on Chairs in the Workplace?

office chair at desk

Q.My work has taken the chairs away from the computer area. This means 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?

(Ms K. Hastings, 8 October 2020)

A. Based solely upon the information you have given here, this would appear to be a case of your employer contravening health and safety regulations. These are laid out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and 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 here is the phrase ‘”can be done sitting”.’ Your query has indicated that this is how the work was done 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.

Desk & Chair Requirements in the Workplace

Any kind of workstation should be suitable for the work which is being carried out. Desks and chairs used should also meet the needs of the employee using that particular workspace.

Prolonged standing can have many health consequences for employees. Workers who are seated in front of computers or similar equipment all day should be provided with a chair which is adjustable. It should be capable of being adjusted to suit the individual sitting at it at any given time. For example, it needs to support the lower back. Also, footrests should be provided if you’’re unable to place your feet flat on the floor when you’’re sitting down.

What To Do if Your Employer Takes Away Your Chair

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. 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. They have an information line you can call where you’’ll be able to get specific advice. The number is 0300 790 6787 lines are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm.

Further reading

31 thoughts on “My Employer Has Taken My Chair Away – What is the Law on Chairs in the Workplace?

  1. Spud says:

    My manager sent a notification round all staff at work listing employees names that are on sick leave, can she do this

  2. Fed up says:

    I have recently started a job and I am on the tills for 4 1/2 hours standing up I have on going medical issues and have requested a seat which has been refused Do I have any legal rights?

  3. the office cat says:

    My boss has redeployed a person 2 grades higher than me to do my job whilst I sit around and do nothing. This person is actually a union rep. Where do I stand?

  4. ZZ says:

    Hello, I have recently discovered that someone I thought I was line managing is being line managed by my boss. This has been going on for over a year and my boss or the person in question has never told me of this change in situation. As a result I have not been able to instruct the person to work for me and they have been going to straight to my boss to report on me. Should be boss have told me of this change to the line management system. And is it a problem that they chose to hide this from me?

  5. DanP says:

    I work for a well established organisation, however 3 weeks ago my team was evicted from our office and desks due to health and safety concerns regarding the building. We work in a customer service and administration team and use 2 displays screens connected to a laptop. We were told we would have a new office in 2-3 days and should either work from home or seek alternative desks for the time being. We were then told we couldn’t work from home, and we had to find desks that were those of other colleagues and not specific hot desks (clear desks for anyones use). We still have no office or desks, and are daily seeking places to work, sitting at other peoples desks in their absence, and even a couple of times working in small meeting rooms. No consideration or direct communication has taken place from our H&S team, we are using uncomfortable chairs, and display screen assessments not done, simply because we are moving about regularly. This has being going on for 3 weeks now and there appears no end in sight. I would be interested to know peoples thoughts on this. Thanks

  6. Weesam says:

    I’ve got a bad back I have to wait evernight I’m working 15 to 20 minutes for a bus which kills my back could I ask for a swap of shops nearer to home which would make it easier for me

  7. Tess says:

    Hi I work for a small company. Our boss refuses to buy new office chairs as he says they are too expensive. The chairs are very old and VERY uncomfortable. I have had to bring a pillow from home to put on the seat (to make the chair higher and less hard). I have also brought my own lumbar support because my back was getting too sore. All the admin staff complain about the chairs and complain about sore backs, necks, elbows and wrists. We have all complained to our boss about the chairs but he refuses to budge. What can we do? He will not listen to us. He said he is not made of money and the current chairs are fine. Please help, advice would be very appreciated. Im sick of going home in pain and spending money on back massages.

  8. nic says:

    I work in a COOP with a single queue which means that unless it is busy only one till is on at a time and have recently been told that if you are the person on the till then you must stay on the stand up till even if the person has a big trolley. I do get my breaks but normally they are not evenly paced out, I tend to get the last 45 minutes of break less than 2 hours before I finish. But even when I have evenly spaced out breaks my feet are still in agony. I am used to standing up and being one the go but when you are on a stand up till you hardly move. I finished work a couple of hours ago and my feet are still sore. Do I have any legal rights to say to my manager that I will not be the person on the till for 9 hours at a time? Please help

  9. Vera says:

    Good afternoon, I leave on the state of CT . I’m a food worker at school district. This morning I got at work and all the stools was gone . The administration doesn’t wanna us to sit al all . I worked for 5.5 hours on my feet . They say because I work only 5.5 hours a day , I’m not in title of a break at all , but they will be nice to me and allow 15 min . With the all stools gone I will not be able to sit . Is this legal what they are doing ? Thanks

  10. MacSue says:

    My employees have a private office for six persons in a co-working space. The company employs 15 people, of which those that dont get a chair/desk are required to sit outside the private office in an open plan co-working space. The workstations are hard rigid plastic seats with no height, or back adjustments – some being floor fixed also. They resemble those that you would find in a cafe or fast casual restaurant. There are some hard rigid upholstered chairs on wheels. In addition there are ‘bar stools’ with no backs and therefore offer no support to sit and work for long periods of the day. By the end of the day my back is telling me this is not right. As a small company there is no H&S rep and the owner does not really care. What can I do. Any help or advice appreciated

  11. Drndn says:

    Hi I’ve worked with the same company for 4years, they have changed our original rota With 4 days notice and I’ve told them Ive made plans But They say tough and expect me to work

  12. Dray says:

    I work for a large automotive company, just recently they employed a full time driver for me to get the deliveries done, at the drivers interview he was told that his main duties are driving and some warehouse work, 8 months down the line they are forcing this guy to do the office work, he is against it and has told the manager, but he keeps getting told that he must do it. Has the company the right to force this upon him. At his interview, if he had been told about the office adminstration side of things he would not off accepted the job.

  13. Dil says:

    My partner works at a work station sitting. She turned on her chair and got a bad pain in her back. After a scan it shows that she has a bulging disc that’s pushing on her spinal cord. Needing urgent surgery. Should she of had some form of documented training with regards to the usr of her chair, workstation and moving on the chair?

  14. jools says:

    I work in a very busy local shop, 1 day 8 hours next day 7hours, hardly get off the till, lucky if I get a 10 minute break, doesn’t get offered, and no behind counter chair is available, I am only moving about 1-4 feet at any time behind the counter to get tobacco or serve at the post office till. What are my legal working rights for me to approach the manager and the company?

  15. Stefania says:

    Hello, i recently problem with my supervisor I have already anxiety because of her. Keep pushing to speed up all the time and said don’t need to stand up (I’m sewing machinist) and sitting all day long it’s impossible

  16. JoeDal says:

    You say “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.” Which law cover this?

  17. CG says:

    I have nerve damage in my neck due to disc that are pressing on my spinal cord which causes severe pain now and then but I manage thru regular pyhsio and meds. I work in an office environment with no heavy lifting involved in my job. My question – we are allowed to work from home but the days I have to travel into the office I have to carry my heavy laptop with me, we have also recently moved building so the walk from my car to the office has increased. I am finding that wheeling my laptop bag has started to increase my pain again. I asked my manager if it was possible to request for another laptop, one for home and one to leave in the office. His advice to me was to not ask HR/ Occupational health as I might be asked to leave as I am unable to carry out my work due to ill health!! I have not been off sick with my neck problems in the last 5 years as I manage it the best I can. Would asking for another laptop be seen as unreasonable? I already have a special chair and keyboard due to my neck problem.

  18. upsetemployee says:

    i have recently got a stress fracture on my foot and im fining it hard at work as i cant move from my desk all day, the toilets are a long walk with lots of door which are hard on crutches so getting depressed. My job is all computer based and email based but unlike every other person on my floor i have a desk top not a laptop so i am literally unable to work from home. Another college had a cough as was so relived she could work from home for a week while she got better as she did not want to cough in the office. How is this fair ?

  19. SciaticaPain says:

    Good Morning, I work in a office, I have a letter when I started from I dependant health official stating Muscular skeletal disorder (sciatica) States I should be assessed at work station, this has not happened, my sciatica is getting worse and so far has been ongoing for 3weeks, I took 2 days off work last week and was harassed as of when I was going back. What can I do?? It’s getting too much in there now and I have 8hrs a day with the pain in work and live the rest of my life laid on my bed after work. (No life) I have prolapse and buldging disks

  20. Matt says:

    Hi all, My girlfriend works at a makeup station in Debenhams, where at times she has to sit people down and do makeovers and such. However every time she does one of these her back starts to hurt. She has asked the company multiple times if they could provide her with a different chair (which could be adjustable), in which they have either ignored her request or replied “no that is the standard chair which is provided”. Is there anything that can help us sort this out? This has been going on for a while now and her back is getting progressively worse. Any help would be greatly appreciated, cheers Matt

  21. illumin8a says:

    Hello, I am a manager in a warehouse and yesterday I asked an employee a simple question relating to why he was not doing as asked. He immediately became hostile and abusive, started shouting and threatening violence against me and then offered me outside. I informed the company owner who then questioned the employee. The employee admitted to threatening and abusing me. I was told that he would be reprimanded, but so far has not and I am expected to continue working with him. I don’t feel comfortable speaking to or working with this employee now as it is not the first time he has shouted and used threatening and abusive behaviour towards me. What are my rights? Is it a legal matter? Can he be arrested for this? Thanks.

  22. Kenno says:

    I work in a well known car factory on a 4 shift pattern that is 2 x 12 hr days and then 2 x 12 hr nights my breaks allowance are 2 x 15 mins plus 1 x 12.5 mins and we are not allowed to sit down in between! Is this breaking any health and safety regs ??

  23. Mk says:

    I work in a well known mobile phone shop, majority of the work is at a computer. When I started they had swivel chairs with back support and adjustable height. They since change the chairs for all there shops from what I’m aware off, they are now fixed leg and height, very basic plain chair. Next to no back support. Also the height of desk seem to low. I’m 6.2, and I notice it more I presume than other staff who aren’t as tall. I keep getting stiff necks and have had back trouble in the past. Is there anything that could be done?

    • Rose says:

      My workplace is nightshift all the staff had chairs to sit on while we were waiting on people buzzing and doing our rounds however our boss has took these chairs away and replaced them with hard solid chairs which hurt our backs arms bottoms she said she will do a risk assessment on the chairs but hasn’t done this yet we sit at different times due to promoting sleep what else can we do and do they have a right to do this to all the staff

  24. Dav says:

    It is illegal if you come back from maternity leave and you have no desk to sit at on certain days a week so you have to sit at the end of someone else’s and you can’t get your legs under the table.

  25. Harley85 says:

    I was supplied with a chair via occupational health at my work for my sciatica it was specifically brought in for me but now the health and safety rep has told everyone else within the office it is a company chair and anyone can use it so I no longer have the back support I need. my union reps both tell me contradicting stories so I don’t know where I stand with where I can go. Is it right that even though the chair was technically ordered in for me that everyone can just use it and readjust it all the time? I cant seem to get any answers.

  26. Winky says:

    I work on a till standing for 8 hours a day, I get 20 mins break and 1 hour dinner is this legal, they used to have chairs there before I started but I was told they took them away as it made us lazy and we didn’t come out of our tills to check the trolleys .is this fair

  27. Susan says:

    Hi, I work in a local council gym on shifts. We currently have use of an office with a chair on the gym floor, however we have been told that soon we will no longer have no access to this office which means we will have nowhere to sit whilst on shift – we will have to stand on the gym floor for the duration of our shift (up to 10hrs). Some of the other gyms in the organisation have a desk and chair on the gym floor which employees are allowed to use and sit at for a rest but we do not – only the office which will be shut. Can we do anything about this please? Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *