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, its highly likely that your employer is breaking the law. Chairs certainly arent 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.
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