It’s very important to know your rights at the workplace. Whether it’s your first job or you’re coming back after having a break from employment due to your ankylosing spondylitis, there are certain laws protecting you and requiring employer to respect your needs. Let us introduce you to some basics, it all might sound boring but can make your life so much easier in the future.

 

What does it mean to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010?

You’re considered to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has:

  • Substantial (more than minor)
  • Long-term (12 months or more)

negative effect on your ability to do daily activities. If you are unsure whether you are covered under the Equality Act then do contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It’s against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of a disability, the Equality Act 2010 protects you from this kind of bias. In Northern Ireland, you are protected by the Disabilities Discrimination Act.

 

Your rights during the recruitment process.

When recruiting, an employer can make limited enquiries about your health or disability. You can only be asked about your health to help decide if you will be able to carry out essential tasks, if they need to make adjustments for an interview, if they want to increase the number of disabled people in the workplace or when this information is necessary for the national security checks purposes.

After you actually get a job your employer will be allowed to ask health-related questions and you have a duty to tell him or her about any condition that might be a health and safety risk to you or other work colleagues. This means you have no legal obligation to tell your employer that you have AS, however you shouldn’t mislead your boss and you have a duty to answer medical questions honestly.

You might not want to talk about your AS as an answer to ‘Tell me about yourself’ question during an interview, but for a mutual benefit you should inform your employer as soon as it seems relevant. Remember that you can only be guaranteed protection by the Equality Act if your employer is aware of your disability.

One of those benefits that can really affect your work life in a positive way is employer’s obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to other people in the workplace. This can include:

  • Providing special equipment to help you work better, such as an adapted chair or desk.
  • Allowing you to take short, regular breaks to stretch out.
  • Rearranging your work hours to avoid the rush hour. It may even be possible for you to work from home occasionally, or part-time.
  • Reallocating duties that you find difficult to perform because of your AS.
  • Provide opportunities to re-train for a different role.

Think about what personally would benefit you the most, what would make your life easier and discuss those needs for adjustment with your employer. Try to be reasonable, it’s about your comfort at work and having equal chances to perform efficiently comparing to other employees. There are initiatives such as Access to Work that can help employers meet the costs of making reasonable adjustments.

 

What if your employer doesn’t respect your needs?

However, sometimes your employer can be unreasonable and the situation cannot be resolved informally. In this case you can raise the matter as a formal grievance. It is vital to seek further support and guidance, for example from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Another useful benefit coming from the Equality Act considers your medical appointments. If you are covered under the Equality Act for your AS and your employer will not let you take time off for a medical appointment connected with your AS or your disability, they could be breaking the law.

Even if you are not covered by the Equality Act then do still bear in mind that your employer cannot treat you differently to other employees. If others are allowed time off work for medical appointments then you should be allowed time off too. Check your contract to see what rights you have.

It could be a very good idea to present your employer with a NASS guide designed to inform on AS. You can find it here.

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