Q: While I was working on a building site last year some wooden floorboards were delivered. One of the lads was moving the boards with a forklift and my boss asked me to climb up onto the back of the lorry so I could help steady them. I am an experienced labourer and I wasn’t happy about this from a health & safety aspect, but if you want to keep your job you don’t argue with the boss! Unfortunately, the boards toppled off the forklift on top of me and pushed me off the lorry. I sustained a spinal fracture and have been off work for 8 months. My consultant said I should not return to any heavy physical work and now my boss is trying to get rid of me. What are my rights?
A: The first issue is whether your employer can legally dismiss you. Good practice would be for your employer to get a medical report from your GP (with your permission) and/or arrange an occupational health assessment. This would be to advise on your health and to give recommendations on what adjustments to your job could be considered.
Where possible, your employer should make any ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you return to work. This might, for example, include offering you a phased return and flexible or part time hours. Remember you have experience that could be an asset to any site that you work on. Dismissal should always be the last resort and if your employer acts unreasonably, then you might have a claim for unfair dismissal.
Separate to this, you should consider making a claim for compensation for the injuries you sustained at work. An employer is responsible for the health and safety of their employees and the ‘Work at Height Regulations’ require any work from height to be properly planned and supervised. In your case there were clear failings. You should contact a local solicitor to advise you as soon as possible.
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