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 Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Reasons for Disclosure or Non-Disclosure of a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

There are valid reasons both for and against someone disclosing that they have RSI. RSI can be a contentious term, if someone has a particular condition they may prefer to call it by its medical name, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or describe it specifically as arm pain, shoulder injury etc.

Reasons for disclosure

1. You have legal protection under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005.
By disclosing a disability, an applicant for a job, or an employee, is legally protected by the employment provisions of the DDA. These provisions provide legal protection to disabled people, and people who have been disabled. You are covered by the DDA if you have ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

The DDA covers recurring and progressive conditions, past impairments, and conditions that would have a substantial adverse effect on a person’s normal day-to-day activities if it were not for controlling treatment and/or medication. People with an RSI condition who do not consider themselves to be ‘disabled’ may in fact be protected by the DDA, because an RSI can be a progressive condition, as well as being controlled by medication and treatment.

Under the DDA, it is unlawful for an employer to unjustifiably treat a disabled applicant for a job, or an employee, less favourably. However, if an employee does not disclose the disability, an employer may be able to justify less favourable treatment more easily.

Employers must also consider making reasonable adjustments – this duty applies to all aspects of employment, including recruitment and selection. Such adjustments could include, amongst other things, allocating some of the disabled person’s duties to another person, altering the person’s working hours or acquiring or modifying equipment to enable the employee to do the job. For example, if the job requires someone to type, an employer may need to consider an applicant who would use voice recognition software. Once a person is in post, the Access to Work scheme can assist employers to provide equipment or alter existing equipment.

2. The Data Protection Act (1998)
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly in the recruitment process, then under the Act, you can ask, to see the employer’s notes made about you. You may also make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal. This must be lodged within three months. The Employment Tribunal has the power to award damages, say whether what happened was against the law, recommend that the employer take certain action (e.g. employs that person, changes its policy etc) or order the employer to pay compensation.

3. Where employers already have equal opportunity policies/disability policies:

a) They should have a commitment to recruiting and employing people without prejudice. An applicant can ask to view the company policy or ask what they do to ensure equal opportunities in their recruitment procedure. Once they have, they may feel more comfortable disclosing their condition if the employer has stated that it does not discriminate.

b) Applicants might feel more comfortable with disclosure if they feel that the way a potential employer recruits will protect them from being disadvantaged if the policy states that the employer evaluates applicants solely against the job specification.

c) The applicant will have a basis for appeal if they feel they have been discriminated against.

IT SHOULD BE NOTED that if any employee has an RSI condition that has any implications for the health and safety of themselves or their colleagues, they are obliged to inform their employer under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) because if an accident happens as a result of a disability, and you have not told your employer or potential employer about it, you could, as an employee, be judged to be legally responsible. Prosecutions are, however, rare.

Reasons for non-disclosure

  1. Where an RSI condition has no effect on a person’s ability to do the job
    You may feel that your condition is not relevant to the job or the application, particularly if the condition does not require any adjustments to the work environment..
  2. An employer with pre-set ideas about RSI may discriminate against someone with RSI or reject by them out of hand
    If you are a job applicant, you may feel that in today’s competitive jobs market, employers will look primarily at your condition and not look at your abilities. An employer might automatically view someone with RSI, both as a problem and possibly a potential expense, whether you are an existing employee or an applicant.
  3. If someone has RSI, they feel that it might give the employer the chance to label them by their RSI condition
    You might feel that an employer will see your RSI as the most important thing about youand make assumptions about you on the basis of your condition.
  4. You may not want to discuss your health problems
    You may be embarrassed and feel that the application process does not allow the time or space for someone who does not know youto get an accurate understanding of your condition, or that it is just not the business of the interviewer.

Despite all the worries that you may have about disclosing, it may sometimes be both in your interest and a legal obligation to disclose an RSI condition. However as anyone in this position will be aware, circumstances may well dictate a different course of action.

If you would like to discuss in confidence any RSI or other disability issues and how we can help, please call Martyn on 0845 644 1712.

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