Occupational Health

Hi Everyone,

I'm a full time teacher, and I have only recently (this year) come out into the open about my arthritis to my colleagues and work place. I've managed since childhood and am still embarrassed at times which is something I am working through myself. My colleagues have been wonderful and I have been asked whether I would like to see occupational health a few times but have turned it down (I don't like to bother anyone). In my job I obviously have a lot of computer work and marking (which I am managing by shuffling the workload), outdoor duties and PE lessons but we also have a lot of behaviour to contend with where I am often physically restraining children. I found out yesterday that work are getting in touch with them regardless as they know I'll keep turning it down.

I'm assuming that some good will come of this but I guess I'm just wondering what to expect. I've tried looking it up but go round in circles, and am getting paranoid that there's something wrong in this somewhere.


  • Mike1
    Mike1 Member Posts: 1,992

    Your employer has a legal responsibility under the Health & Safety at Work Act to make reasonable adjustments to take account of any disabilities, as they are now aware that you have problems from time to time they have no choice but to involve OH.

  • SarahJS
    SarahJS Member Posts: 14

    Thank you. What should I expect from them? I'm worried about the attention that this might cause!

  • JB_PSA
    JB_PSA Member Posts: 8

    I had an OH referral when my diagnosis was confirmed and informed my line manager back in 2019. It was a private conversation to inquire about my condition, medication, impact to work etc and how my arthritis was affecting my work day.

    OH then advised things I could do differently (eg fatigue in the morning so block out time so no meetings), regular breaks etc. They also helped with looking at my desk set up and adjusting my chair in the right way and telling me what to look out for.

    OH then wrote up a report and shared with my line manager and me for the items I was comfortable sharing.

    OH didn’t propose any alternative equipment or any adjustments to working hours etc but that would have gone on the report if necessary.

    I felt better after having the referral and reassured by the advice from OH. It enabled me to have a different mindset towards my arthritis and enabled me to behave differently at work to minimise the impact it has on my work life. At the end of the day work has a duty to ensure my H&S at work and I also have a duty to look after my own health. I feel a lot more comfortable taking breaks, moving around, doing walking meetings etc. If I don’t my joints will feel worse for it and it has a negative impact on my productivity.

    Good luck with your OH referral! Hopefully it is useful for you and you get the outcome you need. :)

  • Jona
    Jona Member Posts: 406

    Hi Sarah,

    I totally understand I’ve been the same with my OA, tried to carry on and hide it and it has had a negative result for me so it is better if they are informed and they can adjust to meet your needs I’ve been scared too but I’m not anymore I’ve realised I matter as do you

    welcome an OH input I mean I bet they will adjust to meet your needs I think they would rather keep experienced staff and they do have a duty of care towards you

    good luck I’m sure you will be fine, let us know how it all goes and take care


  • MoWW
    MoWW Member Posts: 74

    Hello @SarahJS It is difficult to decide when to disclose your condition to your employer and colleagues, it sounds as if you have an understanding team around you. Additional advice from an Occupational health adviser will allow you to explore any equipment, adjustments such as flexible hours and other support you may find will make a difference to you. It is a safe space for you to discuss any difficulties you are experiencing and find solutions if required. Not sure if you are in a teachers union, this link gives some clear information on Occ Health, reasonable adjustments etc., Reasonable adjustments at work | NEU

    Access to work is a government funded scheme that can also provide an independent assessment of your work related needs such as equipment, travel to work support or a support worker within the classroom. Get support in work if you have a disability or health condition (Access to Work): Apply - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

    Disclosing your condition. Arthritis and work (fitforwork.org)

    Ensure you are aware of your rights, information can be found here, Guidance for employers - Disability - HSE

    Disability rights: Employment - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

    How we can help | Disability Rights UK

    Good luck with the OH meeting, I hope it goes well.


  • SarahJS
    SarahJS Member Posts: 14

    Thank you all for your words of advice and encouragement. I had the appointment with OH on Monday which was possible one of the most difficult hours of my life. It was so hard to admit to needing help but also a relief to be able to talk so openly to someone.

    A report went to my employer the next day which was very supportive and made some suggestions for work. The nurse also included some background information on OA and RA which I was impressed with- even though my school have been supportive it's always hard for others to understand your condition isn't it.

    I've been having issues at work with my teaching assistant as we have behaviour to deal with which often involves restraining, and I've been struggling with this. My team have told me not to do it, but my TA isn't stepping up and helping so a meeting was held yesterday, and the report used to set the standard and severity of the situation so hopefully this sank in.

    It's helped me to 'own it' and be more open. I've also shared it with my phase leader as it explains things a lot better than I ever could seeing as I just automatically clam up every time I try!

    Onwards and upwards! 😊