Help with work rights, UK

Hi all.
I’m not sure if anyone can help, or offer advice. I currently work for the UK Prison Service. I’ve been off work now for about 5 weeks, recently diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis.
Work are currently being ok, but I know what the prison service is like and that will change very shortly. I wanted to ask with this illness what protection I have, what I need to do to ensure I’m protected. I want to go back to work so what adjustments I should ask for. Such as around fitness test etc. also if I’m not able to pass my fitness test, and not able to do the job what would happen next, as I know the service will want to get rid of me under medical in efficiency.

I’m just very anxious and concerned about what rights and protection I have, and what reasonable adjustments they need to make/I ask for.

Many thanks in advance

I think the starting points are your contract of employment and any statement you have of terms and conditions. And are you a member of a union and, if so, are you in touch with them?

According to the Equality Act 2010 it is against the law for an employer not to make reasonable adjustments for an employee who has a disability. Psoriatic Arthritis is not automatically considered a disability but can be if it is severe enough. The phrase 'reasonable adjustments' also has to be considered within the context of a particular workplace.

Proving that you have a disability depends on the expert opinion of your rheumatologist and any other relevant doctors. It depends on whether your condition causes long-term impairment. You may not like the idea of being considered disabled, but the definition under the equality act is wider than many people think.

I think finding your way through is going to involve quite a few different people and organisations .... though I'd start with the union and my rheumy. Is there a branch of Citizens Advice where you live? They may well provide good advice and possibly ongoing support as well.

Another thing that occurs to me is whether there are opportunities in your place of work for a sideways move to a different sort of post? It's tricky. You could end up fit as a flea to all intents and purposes - which would be ideal in many ways. But I can see you've got to think ahead and plan for various outcomes.

Hi Clarky, I hope someone with relevant experience turns up soon.

How are you thinking about all this at the moment? Have you found any information from other sources? I guess some aspects are very specific to your type of work, such as the fitness test, but I'm sure we must have some UK members who have asked for 'reasonable adjustments' in other areas.

Did you consider Citizens Advice? One thing that puzzles me is exactly how you 'prove' to your employers that you qualify as having a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. I found some info that suggested that you don't need actual proof and that having difficulty climbing stairs, for example might be enough. On paper at least it looks like you just have to state that you have a disability, but I'm sure verification of any ongoing functional difficulties from a doctor would help. I can send you links to the information if you like.

I really think this is a very important subject you raise here.

Clarky, I’m Canadian, so my experience isn’t all that relevant, although our systems work in a similar way to yours. Here, all that is required is for someone to state that they have a disability, and then request accommodation. Of course, a letter or an assessment from a doctor or an occupational therapist would be helpful.

When you get to the point of speaking to your employer about your disability, please be sure that you are accompanied by your union steward (if you have one) or by a colleague who is on your side.

This isn’t very helpful, I’m sorry, but I’m hoping that a few more people in the UK will be able to help you out. As Sybil says, it’s very important for you, and potentially important to a lot of people around here.

Clarky, hopefully effective treatment will enable you to carry on with your job but it never hurts to be prepared. You definitely need to take a look at your contract of employment and I expect there will also be information on the prison service intranet. Do you have an occupational health advisor in the prison?

In addition you may want to check out the info here on Gov.UK. I don't know how old you are but you may also want to check where you stand on your pension and if it comes to it whether early retirement might be an option.

But you've only just started methotrexate and if this doesn't work then you move on to something else, just sometimes it all takes a while. Remember there are far more people who are able to carry on with a normal life than those that can't.

Thankyou everyone for your kind replies and I shall follow them up. It’s all very new and all very anxious isn’t it. Work at the moment are being fine but I know at some point soon that will change. You can’t blame them in some respects as they are paying me to be off. I need to talk to my rheumatologist next week to see what my prognosis is likely to be. Again thankyou for all your kind replies

You should consider self-referring or asking your manager to refer you to the occupational health service if this hasn't occurred. OHS can advise the manager on suitable adjustments for you, and can on assessment of your illness also advise your employer as to whether you would be considered disabled under the Equality Act.

My "reasonable adjustments" under the direction of Occ Health have related primarily to flexibility around working times, and ensuring simple equipment - e.g. chair change . If there is a union, and you don't belong, join now.

As Jules says there are lots of treatments nowadays so things may well improve for you.

I also find the arthritis research site has a lot of useful information on arthritis in general. In case you haven't come across it I've put the link to their section on work below