A night editor at the Guardian who was forced to leave the newspaper after she was refused access to the company physiotherapist despite developing severe elbow pain has been paid £37,500 in damages.
Andrea Osbourne, who had been a casual worker at the Guardian for two-and-a-half years, worked almost exclusively using a mouse for an average of nine hours a night, and up to 45 hours a week.
Osbourne took the role in February 2001 without a risk assessment and by May 2002, she had developed stiffness and pain in her right elbow.
Her GP diagnosed repetitive strain injury, gave her a cortisone injection and told her the waiting list for NHS physio was so long, she should seek help from her employer, but the Guardian’s HR department refused.
Requests for a workplace assessment were ignored by the health and safety department, and a risk assessment, which was eventually carried out by the editor’s PA, did not cover mouse usage.
Osbourne carried on working because the injection had eased the pain. Another request to see the company physio was refused, as she was told the facility was only available to permanent members of staff, not to casuals.
The HR department advised that the pain was caused by a neck problem, and was nothing to do with the mouse.
In March 2003, the pain had become constant and Osbourne was unable to continue working. She was told by a hospital consultant that she would never be able to do that type of work again, and was advised to seek an alternative career.
Marion Voss, Osbourne’s solicitor from law firm Thompsons, said: “The Guardian failed in its duty of care to Andrea.
“When so much is being talked about by HR professionals and the insurance industry about the importance of rehabilitation, the paper refusing Andrea treatment that might have enabled her to keep working is disgraceful.
“Instead, the paper denied liability, and we were forced to get an ergonomist report to support Andrea’s case. Still the Guardian did not settle the case until close to the trial date.”
The Guardian said the payment to Osbourne was made by its insurers with no admission of liability, and that she has been offered a staff job that would have given her access to the company’s healthcare scheme and physiotherapy programme.