A support worker from Croydon, Surrey, who slipped a disc while pushing a client in a wheelchair, and subsequently had his employment terminated, has successfully secured damages from his former employer.

Malcolm Herbert is a member of leading trade union UNISON and brought his claim for compensation with the support of their personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors. As a result, Choice Support, which provides services for adults with learning disabilities, has been forced to pay him a one off settlement of £15,500.

Mr Herbert explains: “My role as a support worker involved pushing a patient up and down a steep road on a regular basis. I made a number of complaints that this was hurting my back but they were ignored. I have never received any training on wheelchair handling during my employment with Choice Support. On the day of the accident, I was pushing the wheelchair down hill from the church. The road was extremely steep and in order to prevent the patient from falling out of the wheelchair, I had to push it on its back two wheels. I felt an excruciating pain in my back, which got worse over the next few weeks. I was then told I’d slipped a disc and was off work for over 8 months.

“Although support workers take every care when providing assistance for the service users, there did not seem to be any duty of care provided for me by Choice Support. As a result of this case, I do hope that the level of the duty of care given by Choice Support is increased and follow up contact with sick employees is improved.”

Benefit of Trade Union Memership

Jeanette Roe, Regional Officer, UNISON said: “Mr Herbert’s case proves just how beneficial Trade Union membership can be. It is important that where employees are expected to carry out tasks which involve lifting, pushing or pulling heavy loads that their employers have carried out a risk assessment and have reduced the need to carry out the task to the lowest possible level.”

Representing Malcolm Herbert, Vincent Reynolds, from Thompsons Solicitors in London, explains: “Although Malcolm Herbert had a pre-existing back problem, the Consultant Neurosurgeon confirmed that his accident brought forward his symptoms by over two years. Otherwise, he could have continued working until the normal retirement age of 65.

“Mr Herbert is now 64, and with a history of back problems and having lost his most recent - and physically undemanding - employment because of his medical condition, the chances of him finding employment are very small.”