UK employers are failing to adequately support brain injury victims, according to a recent study. Although well equipped to help those with physical injuries get back to work, Hudgell Solicitors found companies generally lack the knowledge to deal with conditions resulting from brain trauma.
Without adequate support, reintegration to the workplace can be difficult and costly. Whilst the responsibility to support an employee with a brain injury may lay squarely on the employer, there is room for governing bodies to reassess the way they make information on the topic accessible.
Our work doesn’t stop once we’ve secured compensation for our clients. We provide an extensive support network through partnerships with charities such as Headway and PAUL, and aim to help victims of brain injuries long after they’ve received compensation.
During this period of aftercare, we regularly hear from our clients that their employers are failing to support them fully, and often don’t completely understand the nature of their condition.
According to statistics from Headway, there were 162,544 hospital admissions for head injuries between 2013-14. However, our research finds that many of these individuals may not have found the full support they require when they returned to work, and the problem hasn’t gone away.
Each brain injury case is unique and the period of recovery can vary widely, during which the sufferer may exhibit a wide range of symptoms and may struggle in very specific areas. Because of this, it is hard to prescribe a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to HR legislation.
However, an increased awareness of issues surrounding brain injuries and the subsequent difficulties they cause victims would go a long way to making it easier for sufferers to reintegrate into the working world.
Charlotte Sweeney, Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Expert, said: “Generally there could be much more understanding from employers on wider issues such as brain injuries and other areas of disabilities.”
Charlotte explained that the lack of support may not be entirely due to a lack of knowledge, as it might be a result of “a nervousness to ask questions and a fear of saying the wrong thing – a good starting point is to talk to the individual about their specific injury and the impact that has had on what they can do and what they may now struggle to do.”
When we spoke with Labour MP for Hull, Karl Turner, about how employers could help minimise the issue, he agreed with Charlotte, suggesting: “conducting workshops with all staff members to discuss mental and physical health issues to foster a better understanding of the practicalities that arise when returning to work.”
Senior Solicitor, Kent Pattinson, expands on this point, saying “There are strategies which employers ought to put in place to assist employees on their return to work following a brain injury.
“However, it is rare for employers to conduct occupational health and vocational assessments when clients return to work.
“Often the only adjustment is in reduced working hours for an initial period, which means that no account is taken of the difficulties brain injured clients often face with deficits of concentration, attention, organisation and planning.
“Without appropriate assistance, clients can quickly become overwhelmed and find themselves unable to cope.”
Karl Turner suggested a more focused approach, through phased schemes which allow employees to return to work at a gradual pace which suits their recovery.
“This may include home visits from managers in which expectations should be discussed and what changes to the job role are necessary to allow a smooth transition,” he said.
Accessibility and support for individuals with injuries and disabilities in the workplace has come a long way, even in the last decade. However, some areas still need to be brought to the forefront. It needs to be easier for an employer to recognise the situation and subsequently access the knowledge to deal with it in a supportive and inclusive manner.
Talking about the issue, as many charities, sufferers and other entities continue to do so tirelessly, is the most positive way of affecting change.
If you or someone close to you has been affected by any of the issues raised, please feel free to get in touch or head here if you would like more information about brain injuries.
One of our specialist solicitors would be happy to talk to you about seeking a claim or helping you with aftercare should you need a helping hand.