Newspapers have reported a story about a lawsuit by two Virgin Atlantic employees against their employer because they developed RSI (repetitive strain injury) while working in the Clubhouse Lounge at Heathrow providing massages for businessmen. The employees won £300K in compensation arguing that they developed RSI during working hours and that they were not given regular breaks. In a nutshell, the employers failed in their duty of care towards their staff wellbeing.
There’s quite a few lessons to be learned from this lawsuit, so here’s my thoughts on the matter.
RSI is a very debilitating condition that can be extremely painful. Computer programmers and journalists for tend to suffer from it as they spend several hours typing without a break and if their injuries become chronic their ability to work becomes severely compromised.
The Virgin Atlantic court case has set a precedent so now staff members can sue for RSI they developed during working hours.
There was obviously a breakdown in communications between the Virgin Atlantic therapists and their employer. The therapists should have demanded better working conditions including regular breaks and should have negotiated with the clients to be able to perform a massage treatment safely without compromising heir personal health. It has been reported that the massage clients practically bullied the therapists into providing a stronger pressure than was strictly necessary. Doing so severely damages a therapist’s hands. Not only wrists, forearms and shoulders can become painful and inflamed, but general back pain can develop.
Massage and beauty therapists must look after their health in the first place, they are supposed to lead by example.
Employees in general have their responsibilities: they must negotiate with their employer so that they are not spending more than one hour at the time a the computer or other activity that would cause repetitive strain without a one-five minute break.
There’s some clear messages from this story: the Virgin Atlantic lawsuit should ring alarm bells with employers as repetitive strain injuries at work could potentially cost companies some serious money. It would be much more cost-effective to invest in Employee Assistance Programmes and a proper wellbeing strategy that includes offering yoga or exercise classes in the workplace and regular massage for staff.