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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50518
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I’m a computer programmer and sit at my desk basically 8

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Hi, i’m a computer programmer and sit at my desk basically 8 hours a day. Last year due to previous back surgery and carpall tunnel i was assessed by a third party accessor whom recommended a special chair setup for my needs, footstooland monitors arranged at a specific height and distance for my needs. This year my employer has introduced a “no one has a dedicated desk” policy (except the managers) and all personal items need to be removed from the desk each day before 6pm (clear desk policy) otherwise they will be trashed. So today i arrive in go to the normal desk that i work at and the foot stool is removed, monitors are reset to a general position. When i challenged this i was told no one has a dedicated desk and that i would have to retrieve the footstool each morning as its presence below the desk would put other people off using that desk. So interested in people thoughts around if there are any laws governing these items... obviously my desk was tailored a year ago but since the implementation of this new policy H&S seems to be thrown out the window. Idon’t wish to setup my desk each morning and reposition monitors, seat height, etc .. is there anything i can do?Thanks

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

How long have you worked there for?

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Hi, approximately 11years 11 months

Thank you. Your rights will very much depend on whether your condition amounts to a disability under employment laws. If it does, you will have relatively strong rights, specifically that you are going to be protected against discrimination by the employer and there will also be an obligation on them to make reasonable adjustments to help you.

By having this policy in place, you would be indirectly discriminated by them as there is a provision which places you at a disadvantage when compared to non-disabled employees. In addition, a reasonable adjustment in these circumstances would be to provide you with the necessary equipment and leave it there, best achieved by making an exception and allocating you a dedicated desk, which you would not have to vacate each day. For the majority of workers an open desk policy is fine, but exceptions can be made and this is the best example of making a reasonable adjustment to ensure they discharge their legal obligations under disability laws.

Please take a quick second to leave a positive rating for the service so far by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above. I can continue answering follow up questions and in particular can also discuss how to establish if you are disabled or not. There is no extra cost for this - leaving your rating now will not close the question and means we can still continue this discussion. Thank you

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Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Ok so quick question around establish if disabled or not. For intermittent back pain they have assigned a special orthopaedic seat and foot stool, adjusted heights etc but have refused to allocate a specific desk where these provisions do not change or get moved. So should my direction be to force them to allocate a desk based on their previous “reasonable adjustments” given i am not registered disabled as such. Thanks

You do not have to be registered disabled to qualify. Disability can have a broad meaning from a legal perspective and there is no single list of medical conditions that qualify. Potentially anything can amount to a disability if it meets the required criteria.

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

I will break this definition down and examine it in more detail:

  • Physical or mental impairment – this can include nearly any medical condition, be it physical or mental
  • Substantial effect – the effect must be more than minor or trivial
  • Long-term - the impairment must either have lasted or be likely to last for at least 12 months
  • Normal day-to-day activities – these could include anything considered ‘normal’ in a person's normal daily routine (e.g. shopping, reading and writing, having a conversation or using the telephone, watching television, getting washed and dressed, preparing and eating food, carrying out household tasks, walking and travelling by various forms of transport, and taking part in social activities)

If a person satisfies the above criteria, as mentioned they will be classified as being disabled and will have automatic protection against discrimination. This means that they must not be treated unfavourably because of their disability. In addition, their employer would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage when compared to non-disabled employees.