What if I get RSI and lose my job?

Your employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) to provide you with safe working conditions, and a common-law duty of care towards you.

But your precise legal rights will depend on whether or not you are an employee, how long you worked for your employer before the date of dismissal and how serious your injury is.

If you are an employee and have worked for your employer for more than two years, you may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal

In some limited circumstances – for example, if you are dismissed for raising health and safety concerns with your employer – you may be able to claim unfair dismissal from the start date of your employment.

It is automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee for raising health and safety concerns in a reasonable way. No length of service is needed if a dismissal takes place for this reason. If you are dismissed because you raised concerns that your working conditions might be linked to your RSI, you may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal regardless of how long you have worked for the employer.

If there is a safety rep in your workplace, you should raise your concerns through him or her.

In any event, it is sensible to record them in writing, or in an email, so that you have a paper trail if the problem continues. See our Work Rights section.

If you cannot claim unfair dismissal, you can only claim any unpaid notice pay, unused holiday or other contractual payments you are owed – although the situation is different if you have a disability (see below).

You may also be able to make a personal injury claim for damages – covering pain and suffering, and loss of earnings – if your employer has failed to provide safe working conditions, leading you to suffer a reasonably foreseeable injury. Rail union ASLEF won a groundbreaking judgment on RSI in December 2009. Three train drivers won compensation totalling more than £22,000 from Arriva Trains Wales after a judge concluded that they developed Carpel Tunnel Syndrome through repetitive work, adopting awkward wrist postures and operating brake and power controls in cramped conditions.

Every case is different. For advice, see our Personal Injury Claims section.

Regardless of how long you worked for your employer, if you suffer serious injury, you may be able to make a claim for disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010). The EA 2010 prohibits unlawful discrimination against a disabled person in employment. Depending on the severity of your injury, your employer may have had a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to allow you to continue working, or to return to work with alternative duties. There is more about this in the workSMART guide to your Work Rights.

In every case, it is very important to take legal advice quickly, as time limits for bringing a claim are very short.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.