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Returning to work after major trauma

Your employer must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for your major trauma injuries and they could be in trouble if they don't.

Returning to work following a major trauma injury can be a milestone in your recovery journey.  But depending on the injuries sustained, it may not always be possible to return to your pre-injury employment without the need for adjustments to be made. 

What to expect from your employer?

Under the Equality Act 2010, your employer must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace for employees who have a disability. This could be a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term impact on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.  The Act also means it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their disability. Therefore it may be possible to bring a claim for disability discrimination in the event you are treated less favourably by your employer because of your disability or something linked to it. 

What are reasonable adjustments in the workplace?

Reasonable adjustments will vary dependent on the nature of your injuries and the effect they have on your ability to do your job.  Examples of reasonable adjustments include:

  • A flexible or graduated return to work.
  • Being offered a different role in the company.
  • Provision of equipment to assist you in the workplace.
  • The option to work from a different location, such as from home.

Do I need to tell my employer about my injuries?

It is always preferable to speak to your employer about the major trauma injuries you have sustained and how they are impacting your life and ability to work.  If your company has an occupational health department, they should be included in discussions.  Discussing your disability with your employer will enable them to consider adjustments that may need to be made to your role to enable a smooth and stress-free return to work.

Can I be dismissed from my job if my employer cannot accommodate my disability?

There are circumstances where it may not be possible for you to return to your previous employment.  Perhaps the nature of your pre-accident employment means that even with reasonable adjustments, your disability prevents you from being able to fulfil your previous role.  In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of your employer to show that the adjustments needed would be unreasonable and to try to find an alternative option.  However, capability (the loss of ability to do the job you are employed to do) is a fair reason for dismissal although your employer must still ensure they use a fair and reasonable procedure to decide whether to dismiss you.  If such a procedure is not followed, this could give rise to a claim for unfair dismissal, although the reason for dismissal is valid.

Other help

If you are unable to return to work because of your major trauma injuries, there may be benefits you are able to claim to assist with living expenses.  A welfare benefits check up should be completed to ensure you are receiving the benefits to which you are entitled. 

Vocational rehabilitation is a process which enables people to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining or returning to employment or other useful occupation, such as charitable or voluntary work.  If your injuries have been sustained as the result of an accident that was someone else’s fault, a vocational rehabilitation expert may be instructed as part of your claim for damages.  Alternatively there are a number of organisations who may be able to assist, such as the Vocational Rehabilitation Association or the Backup Trust.

How can Major Trauma Group help?

If you have suffered injury as a result of an accident which was not your fault, and would like to find out more about Major Trauma Group and how our member firms can help you, get in touch via:

Major Trauma Group is a not-for-profit community interest company, set up in November 2020. Major Trauma Group’s purpose is to enhance the rehabilitation journey and provide specialist legal assistance to those suffering major trauma.  We do this by providing access to experienced legal advice in this specialised area. Crucially, our law firms have rehabilitation at the core of their services, emphasising recovery and ensuring financial security.

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