I was elected to my role as a full time Disability Equality Advisor by all three unions recognised at Sellafield – GMB, Prospect and UNITE.
Sellafield has 13,500 staff on site and I currently have 200 active cases. I’ve won numerous awards over the years for my work as a Disability Equality Advisor.
My normal day consists of meeting with people in work, staff home visits, accompanying members to see the site doctor, reviewing and rewriting equality and diversity policies. I also ensure Sellafield are meeting the Department for Work and Pension’s highest standard on the recruitment and retention of disabled workers.
But I had a long journey to get here.
When I was 16, I followed in the footsteps of my dad and grandad and joined the army. I was a machine gunner and sustained a back injury. When I came out of the army, I got a job at Sellafield. But while working there, my back problems got dramatically worse and I was diagnosed with a severe prolapse of my back disc.
I had surgery on my back and returned to work after six weeks. But the pain continued, becoming so severe that I locked myself in a cupboard and cried until a colleague found me. A biopsy result showed that I had an infection in the disc and required a full disc replacement.
I was off work for 18 months. After the operation, I was told I might be in a wheelchair, but I got back to work, with a back brace and walking frame.
Unfortunately, I was told I could no longer be a shift worker because of my disability, which would have meant a reduction in pay of £12,000. My employer’s idea of reasonable adjustment was to have me sit in the canteen and amend documents, which I refused to do.
I convinced his employer to allow him to attend training as a TUC Disability Champion in the workplace. I told them they could make better use of my skills by allowing me to train as a Disability Champion, which would help the company avoid discrimination claims.
Since I became a Disability Advisor six years ago, the company hasn’t been to an employment tribunal on the grounds of disability discrimination.