Overcoming Isolation and Frustration: Legal Protection for Brain Injury Survivors in the Workplace

Brain injuries can be catastrophic medical events, being our most vital organ and a highly complex organ to boot. Each year there are over 350,000 hospital admissions relating to brain injuries – a number which has increased significantly over the past 20 years. Life after a brain injury can be difficult for those unfortunate to suffer them, too. This is particularly true in the workplace, where failure of businesses to properly understand the rights of workers can lead to isolating and discriminatory behaviours.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

Firstly, it is important to have a general understanding of one’s legal rights in the workplace – some factors of which will especially apply to brain injury survivors seeking a return to the workforce. Many legal protections for workers are enshrined within the Equality Act 2010. While seemingly designed, on a surface level, to attack systemic racial and otherwise discriminatory biases within the UK’s employment infrastructure, the Act goes far deeper – ensuring that workers’ jobs are protected from unfair or retaliatory behaviour.

Brain injury survivors, then, can count on the Equality Act as a bedrock for job security. Disabilities, brain injuries included, are a protected characteristic, and no decisions can be made about your future at a given business with this characteristic in mind. It does bear reminding, though, that employees with less than two years at a business enjoy fewer protections than others, and can be dismissed for any reason (making arguments of unfair dismissal difficult except for in the most egregious of cases).

Compensation for Brain Injury

Brain injury claims are the process by which survivors of brain injury seek compensation, whether from a responsible individual, responsible business or responsible organisation besides – such as a local council. These are civil processes, which operate outside of the criminal justice system; they apportion civil responsibility, and facilitate financial restitution. 

Most claims are settled before court, but some can lead to lengthy and contested court proceedings. These are often the most isolating times for a brain injury survivor, and the point at which pastoral support is more important than ever.

Accessing Rehabilitation Services

Survivors of brain injury will already be undergoing some form of NHS-managed or private-healthcare programme of rehabilitation. However, they may also be able to access additional assistance through the workplace, whether by healthcare benefits or legally-underpinned allowances.

The latter takes the form of ‘reasonable adjustments’, another workplace right enshrined in the Equality Act 2010. Where a worker has a specific need relating to their condition or protected characteristic, the business in question must be able to make a reasonable adjustment for their improved comfort or reduced disadvantage. For someone with a brain injury, this might mean step-free access for ease of mobility, or reading aids to reduce eye or cognitive strain.

While legal requirements stop with reasonable adjustments, businesses will often go above and beyond – particularly if they are complicit in the injury at hand. As part of existing workplace benefits, brain injury survivors may be able to access additional third-party counselling, or even physiotherapy in service of improving their condition at home and at work.