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Sue Rutherford’s story

I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis; an autoimmune disease that attacks my joints, tendons, muscles and tissue. It is very much a hidden disability because how I look on the outside, doesn’t represent the struggle that I live with every day. When my body is in a flare-up, I can be immobilised, but when people see me walking around as normal in the office, it’s hard for them to comprehend that side of my life.

Before joining Liberty in July 2018, I discussed my illness with my future manager and was assured that my disability wouldn’t be a barrier if I joined Liberty. This was a relief, as I have felt pressure from previous employers to not allow my disability to inconvenience them in any way. And this just isn’t realistic for me, the disease means that I need my employer to be flexible.

As soon as I joined Liberty the H&S team conducted a risk assessment with me. They consulted with me and took the advice from my Occupational Therapist to understand what equipment and support I needed.

From the beginning I was able to work from home when needed, because driving can be difficult when I have flare-ups. So, I was given a chair that supports my neck and spine, a rising monitor and the option of speech to text software to support me when I have flare-ups in my arms and hands. All of this means that I’m able to continue doing something I love – writing. For me it’s not just a key part of my role of Business Development Manager for the repairs, maintenance and construction division, it’s also a hobby and something I love to do outside of work too.

Working from home, which has now become the norm for many since the impact of COVID-19, enables me to manage my work around my pain and hospital appointments. Last year, I suffered two severe flare-ups, both requiring hospital treatment. On both occasions, my manager’s primary concern was my health and wellbeing, and even went as far as to arrange for me to have private physiotherapy appointments and fund Pilates classes to compliment my other treatments. I felt really looked after by the business and my colleagues.

I have worked at other companies, who have made reasonable adjustments. But I don’t believe that ‘reasonable’ is sufficient to allow someone to flourish.

Liberty has always gone above and beyond to support me. When my Rheumatologist asks how my employer is about my illness, I am proud to say that they are fantastic, and that I don’t believe that they could support me more.

I no longer feel embarrassed to talk about my illness and I definitely don’t see it as a barrier to progress in my career.