Author Topic: advice re: employers needed -think im being discriminated against!!  (Read 16770 times)

Offline Divyj

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Hi all

I was diagnosed with bilateral MD in Jan 2011, my employers have been fairly reasonable about me attending hospiatl appointments etc but as I have had absences they called me in for an informal chat the other week. I advised them then that I thought that this was unnecessary as they were aware that all my absences were directly linked to my MD -two for surgical proceedures! I thought my trigger points were being ajdusted following the advice of my OHT report. I work in a school and hace to cover lessons for absent staff, I also teach afew hours a week and them my main role is pastoral.

At the meeting the head went through the process and set me a target of no more than two days off between now and summer, he told me if i had a disability it would be different? I told him MD was under EqAct and it clarified that in OHT report too. he then looked at that and went 'ah it does imply you have a disability = ok no more than 3 days'.

The next day i put my concerns in writing and requested that they disregard my absences linked to MD as disabilty rather than sick, that I can attend work but go on light duties if im feeling unbalanced as I have alot of anxiety about being sick infront of a class full of kids. I got a letter back saying they will look into 'whether or not I am on the disability register'. (didnt know there was one - and apparently hasnt been one since 1995) Got another letter the next day saying that they do beleive my condition under DDA (not EqAct!) but they would still follow attendance policy. they then went on to say they have been reasonable by letting me attend the hospital, have put risk assesments in place and I have done significantly less cover lessons than my collegues. Well as far as im aware the first two -theyd be stuffed if they didnt do either and the third is not true - the computor generated stats that show my cover is less but they have not factored in my other timetabled hours etc. I have been told by the HR manager that they will not allow light duties and if your not fit to do the job you are employed to do you stay off.

therefore I have been going into work even though I feel terrible as Im scared they will persue the disciplinary stages if I take time off. Ive been in work this morning and had a woman sniping at me saying i never do anything etc etc this really upset me and so went and I asked my line manager if i could go home. Ive since had a call to say I have left the premisies with out permission and they want a meeting to discuss the matter.

HELP please - Ive got to the point where I feel like Im going mad? i feel like they havnt listened to anything i have told them about how my condition effects me, they obviuosly not read my oht report very well, and they dont have a clue? But what can I do?

Offline Emma

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Oh I am sorry you have had such a bad time at work lately, this can't help you either :(
Sorry I don't really have any advice, do you have a copy of the information for employers the Menieres Society provides? It would be good to take this along and any evidence the condition relates to the DDA and Equality Act, do you have a union rep? I would strongly advise taking them with you too. Also I don't know if this will be of any help but I have printed off a year calendar and have circled every day so far when I have been badly affected by my MD - it makes for quite a depressing picture to be fair but may help some people understand better as some people take things in better with a picture as oppose to words.
Hope you get sorted and I am sorry for you things are so bad xx
Be happy - Keep smiling :-D

Offline Gibson335

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If you PM me I will send you a document I put together based on my own experiences.  Some of it may fit, other parts won't, but you may find something to help.

Frankly, my strongest advice given how far you've come is to have a meeting with a solicitor who specialises in employment law.  I went through the mill much as you are in the same enviornment, and the best thing I did was consult a solicitor.

If you're in a union I assume they're involved, so what are they doing?  If not, well, to be honest I don't put great stock in unions when it comes to this sort of thing, but the other thing I would urge you not to do is attend any sort of meeting without someone there representing you - even if it's a friend.  If you can't get someone to do that, take a dictaphone or something similar with you and tell them you're recording the meeting.  DO NOT have any more meetings with them on your own!!

You DO have a disability and it IS covered under the EA, and the onus is on your employer to make reasonable adjustments, not place some arbitrary quota of sick days on you that will only worsen the situation.

Look, don't take it personally - your employers simply would rather wash their hands of the issue than deal with it, and this is why it ends up like this so often.  Do you work under an LEA or are you an Academy?  If it's the LEA, then believe me they are the ones behind the attitude.

If you PM me I will reply with my e-mail address, and if you mail me I'll reply with the document attached.  In the meantime, I will urge you once again - seek out a solicitor.  For a one-off fee they'll meet with you, discuss your case, advise you and ought to also provide a letter from either them or adaptable as if from you to your employers.  You also need to put together your own proposal of reasonable adjustments you think your employer should make that will help improve your attendance.

Tony
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline Divyj

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Thanks for your replies so far?

Sorry not really sure how to PM you? but will once I know how!

I work for an LEA and no, none of them have a clue - they make good teachers but not managers!!! I am waiting for a call back from an employment solicitor to see if i can arrange an appointment - have already decided the cost of a letter has got to be worth it. and no, I have place no value in the unions, our rep would just use my case as the next bit of gossip in the staffroom - nothing is confidential?

They have made me feel like im over reacting and being awkward, but Im a single parent - if i lose my job, theres no plan b?

Offline Gibson335

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I've sent you the document.

Regards the claim you went offsite without permission, did you inform anyone that you were leaving?  If not, then don't worry too much - tell them you did everything you could but in the end you were so afraid of the stress setting off a spin that you had to make yourself safe.

Unfortunately, most non-sufferers can't or won't understand how incapacitating MD is, neither will most be bothered to find out more on-line.  MD is an 'invisible' illness, and as such it's human nature for others to think you're swinging the lead.  Even those who know about it may think it's just a case of getting 'a bit dizzy' now and then.  But don't let their ignorance get on top of you.  If anyone cares to know more, then a Google of the illness will find lots of blogs by sufferers - I have my own - and they will tell the real story.

If you want to go over things in more detail, you'll have my address so fire away.

You are not alone in this!

Tony
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline Divyj

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i told my immediate line manager that I wanted to go home as I felt like crap and was sick of the crap she didnt say no you cant? . I then went to the Admin office and asked them to re designate my cover lessons as i was going home as I was upset - she asked me to go in her office and talk to her but told her I was too upset and wanted to go home. I then actually went to wait in the deputy heads room as he has been very supportive and was going to discuss with him, bu then realised he was teaching and felt so dizzy with stress at this point went home. Went straight to doctors and have his full backing, so Im sure they will try and tell me Im in the wrong but I know Im not!

Have spoke to a sloicitor - he charges £200+vat an hour and I dont qualify for legal aid? wondering if I could try teching unions under my 'student' side of things as unison rep no good? Other than that I think i got a long and lonely battle on my hands!

Thanks again for the info?

Offline Miffysmum

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Just wanted to say bless you and take care of yourself. I am just out of gentamycin remission after 6 years. With my previous spell I came very close to being dismissed for incapacity. I work in the NHS. HR were evil, despite a very supportive occupational health who laid out adaptations including to expect me to need more time off than usually expected. I did my part too by reducing my paid hours so i could rest. I did get my union involved and they attended all meetings with me. HR would not back down and i couldn't because i too was a single parent. In the end my union instructed employment solicitors on my behalf and the trust eventually backed down and i am still employed, hapily now, in the same place. Still hate HR though for what they put me through.

You can get a free hour with many solicitors, citizens advice gave me a list when i got divorced. Go higher up with union if your local rep can't be trusted to remain confidential, you have paid your dues. Get some notes made as objectively as you can about the history and meetings, including comments and judgements about you and your capability. Add names and dates. All may be useful evidence in the future if you do end up in court and gives you confidence in meetings, puts them on the back foot too when you can quote names, dates and what was said. Menieres is specifically listed in the equality act 2010 you can google to get a copy. Best of luck. Alison

Offline Divyj

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Aw thanks for your kind words. I hate all this, coping with my ill health is bad enough but when I think that I may lose my job over their ignorance and then think how my daughter could suffer I guess I'm going to have to fight? Looks like I might be able to join Naswt union so will ring them in the morning!

Now to try and switch off from such a horrible day, get some sleep and hopefully think a bit clearer tomorrow!

Thanks

Offline Gibson335

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Shop around for a solicitor - you may find a few who will do a one-off introductory meeting for much less than that.  If you can get it down to half you may find it's the best £100 you have ever spent!

Tony
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline The Wobbler

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If you PM me I will send you a document I put together based on my own experiences.  Some of it may fit, other parts won't, but you may find something to help.

Frankly, my strongest advice given how far you've come is to have a meeting with a solicitor who specialises in employment law.  I went through the mill much as you are in the same enviornment, and the best thing I did was consult a solicitor.

If you're in a union I assume they're involved, so what are they doing?  If not, well, to be honest I don't put great stock in unions when it comes to this sort of thing, but the other thing I would urge you not to do is attend any sort of meeting without someone there representing you - even if it's a friend.  If you can't get someone to do that, take a dictaphone or something similar with you and tell them you're recording the meeting.  DO NOT have any more meetings with them on your own!!

You DO have a disability and it IS covered under the EA, and the onus is on your employer to make reasonable adjustments, not place some arbitrary quota of sick days on you that will only worsen the situation.

Look, don't take it personally - your employers simply would rather wash their hands of the issue than deal with it, and this is why it ends up like this so often.  Do you work under an LEA or are you an Academy?  If it's the LEA, then believe me they are the ones behind the attitude.

If you PM me I will reply with my e-mail address, and if you mail me I'll reply with the document attached.  In the meantime, I will urge you once again - seek out a solicitor.  For a one-off fee they'll meet with you, discuss your case, advise you and ought to also provide a letter from either them or adaptable as if from you to your employers.  You also need to put together your own proposal of reasonable adjustments you think your employer should make that will help improve your attendance.

Tony


Tony why do you make a special point of not having meetings on your own?

Is the concern that you might say something inappropriate or damaging, or is it because you need a witness to what was said?

I took your advice and consulted a solicitor but they did not make this point, albeit by then I had received a set of notes of an informal meeting (that I had attended on my own).

My initial one hour consultation cost £175 + VAT.  In that interview I was told that in employment law there are jobs and there is money.  I was asked to decide what it was that I wanted.  It’s a great question!

My own advice is to always bear in mind the adage that “there is no sentiment in business”.

As an MDer you are a problem to the business because your efficiency is compromised.  No matter how much sympathy, empathy and understanding you get, or indeed do not get, it doesn’t actually change the relevance of the adage, which holds true whatever your health or circumstances.

Offline Divyj

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I agree that having someone with me is a good idea. they are more detatched from the situation and will hear exactly what is being said without the emotion involved. they can also be there to take notes etc!

Unfortunalty i think I will have to attend my next meeting on my own but will be going in armed with a dictaphone!

there is no sentiment in buisness? True but they have a duty of care to make sure you are safe and I alsdo think they have a duty of care to the students who dont want to see there teacher spewing up and falling over all the time!!

So wobbler - what did you decide after the expensice consultation? Job or money? I need a job - im a single mum its not about money its about security!

Offline The Wobbler

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That decision will depend upon your own particular circumstances.  And that will cover age, income, liabilities, state of health, responsibilities, other options etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Are they wanting rid?  Are they trying to manipulate you out of the business?

Your head’s attitude is laughable to those of us who understand, but they don’t, and they probably never will.

Security is not something that those of us in the private sector can contemplate.  It doesn’t exist in the first place, even if we like to think that it does.  The public sector is a different world.  I have no experience there, although it looks warm and inviting from the outside.  Better pay, better conditions, greater job security and better pensions.  It surely can’t last......

My choice was job, but I feel that the die is cast otherwise.  I have become an unreliable employee and there is no sentiment in business.

Offline judym

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The whole situation seems to have got totally out of control! I can empathise with your feelings of despair - after trying to stay in the world of work for 30 years  - first with epilepsy and now MD. Several times I have had to change course because the job was not possible. I was fortunate in that, when one door shut, another one opened. Your first priority must be to reduce the stress - which is probably making you a lot worse.

I can see it from the point of view of your Head - to supervise a class of kids, with the uncertainty MD, is hazardous and parents are always eager to sue!  I had to give up mainstream teaching because it was really too risky -  taking responsibility for 30 pupils doing Chemistry was just not feasible. Also staff absence is costly and sometimes difficult to manage (particularly at short notice)

Having said that, your Head's confrontational approach seems the least helpful route! The LEA should have  quite straightforward procedures in place for people in your situation that do not seek to apportion blame/guilt and provide clear-cut solutions. Don't go on feeling so bad - the LEA or your union must be able to advise. If not, I suggest letter to Chair of Governors - not in anger but requesting review of the situation in order to resolve for the benefit of the school, as well as yourself. The sooner you can get a resolution the better. Good luck!

Offline redjune

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Hi, Im also a teacher and was diagnosed with md last month. Im lucky (in a way) because I have been off work since last november with a serious back problem and my symptons started round about the same time. So I havent had to face a class knowing that I might have an attack or be sick. I cant imagine anything more awful. I was also lucky as the father of my head suffered with md so he was really sympathetic.
The reason Im replying though is that I was told by my union that I must register with my head teacher any 'disabilities' so that I cant be discriminated against. At first I thought this was silly as I dont consider myself disabled, but my union rep insisted that I did and she also told me to look at  the disabilities and equalities act of 2010. Under the act you cannot be discriminated against at work because you have got a medical condition. It is definitely worth having a look at the act, its very easy to read and md is definitely mentioned.
So I wrote a letter to my head informing him of all my conditions that I have had for longer than a year, but also told him that I was being investigated for md as well.
So even though you are still managing to work I would advise you to write a letter to your head and also get in touch with your union,

Offline redjune

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I also agree with the other people who said dont go into any meetings alone. You need someone with you as a witness to what is said and also as support. I have also kept a diary of all conversations etc so Ive got an accurate record of events.
Im waiting to see if Ive got retirement on ill health, not because of the md but because of my back problem.

Offline Gibson335

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Wobbler

In answer to your question, first of all your employers are obliged to inform you that you can bring someone into meetings of this sort, so it's important that they follow the rules; secondly, and more directly, I had no one with me in my first formal meeting and I found that the minutes - which should be taken - were wildly distorted and biased.  I made a written complaint about the minutes and, having by that time taken legal advice, had the minutes wiped because they had not informed me of my right to have someone with me.

I guess it depends on how much you trust them, but like you say for whatever reason they will almost always prefer you move on, and the more difficult they make it the more likely it is that some people will bend to their will.  I don't even blame them - in my post I have the final say on two different jobs and despite having MD myself I am honest enough to admit that I would have to consider long and hard before saying yes to someone with MD.  My role is somewhat different in that I can do 95% of my job from home just as easily as if I were in my office, but for people you need to be there 5 days a week every week it's a tough call.

In an ideal world there would be no discrimination, but that ideal world doesn't exist.  For me, worse than the employer's attitude, is that of colleagues.  No one else does my work, so my absence puts no strain on anyone else, yet the back-stabbing that goes on is horrendous.  You have to accept it, because things are what they are rather than how we'd like them to be, but it still gets to you sometimes.
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline Divyj

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you guys dont realise how noce it is to know that people understand the situation Im in. I never met anyone with MD so feel no-one truly understands it.

I nwas definatlyn feeling encouraged after all your kind words untill Mr Postie delivered a letter from My head this morning stating that they want a meeting with me asap for me leaving the premises on theursday! (inspite of me telling two managers i wanted to go homeas was so upset) they have also put in the letter they want to see my sick note asap? I didnt think employers should contact you when your off sick unless its agreed and is supposed to be positive? Sending me a letter mentioning my conduct has just sent my stress levels bonkers - Ive been sick twice with stress.

I know they cant give me a warning or anything at this meeting as they have to state their intentions to do so in the letter and they havnt offered me the opportunity take someone in with me. They havnt even asked for my version of events so there prepared to have a meeting based on one side?

I think the letter just reinforces my case that HR have a clue but in the meantime my health is suffering badly!

#lots of deep breaths!

Think im just going to do nothing untill I have got legal advice?

Offline Cully

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Why why why. Why pay a solicitor when you area union member and this service is free. Why accept a bad work place rep when you can go direct to your union full time officer who specialise I this kind of thing more so than a solicitor. Finally why accept the advice of the lay men on this forum no disrespect intended when this is vital to your future. I was in a similar situation to you a number of years back and believe me the union is your best bet. Some of the advice is very pertinent I will give you that the bit about not going to meetings on your own etc is paramount use your full time union officer not the local rep. If push comes to a shove as it did in my case the FTO will have all the documentation relevant to your case this is vital should it go to a tribunal remember if it does get this far you will be compensated for future earnings as well as present. Vital as alone parent so once again use the the might of the union much better your £4 a month fee for them than £175 a pop with a solicitor.

Offline The Wobbler

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I agree with you Tony.  Working from home and/or home working (to my mind there is a subtle but important distinction between the two) is considered a soft option by many.

There is almost a jealousy angle to it.  My boss says that some people comment – the usual suspects.  I call them ‘the whisperers’  >:(.  I have to say that I don’t give a stuff about them, but they are, of course, ever present and corrosive.  You have to see it from their point of view too.  When they see you you often look better than them.  What disability/illness?  How convenient!

But not everyone can work from home.  There are so many careers that you couldn’t even contemplate doing with MD.  Stress, obligatory attendance and deadlines are not happy bedfellows.  You can’t be a bus driver or a teacher working from home can you?

However everyone is different and has their own unique symptoms and circumstances which is why it is so hard to generalise.  That is why I agree with your advice to seek legal guidance, and to get to know the rules of the game.  If, like Cully, you can get the same level of advice through a union then so much the better.  That is a big if though, and those of us in the private sector do not necessarily have that facility.

Dismissal on the grounds of capability through ill-health is an ever present threat.  The Equality Act does not protect you from that as far as I know.  There is no magic shield from dismissal, just as there is no magic bullet cure for MD.

And as you say who would choose to employ someone with MD?

One thought though.  If you ultimately ended up in a tribunal do you not think that the mistakes that the other side make would help your cause?  For example by asking you to attend meetings on your own, sending you demanding letters etc.  To my mind that is where knowing the rules of the game and having sound advice is important.

Offline Divyj

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Im not paying for a solicitor - I have legal cover within my insurance policy so am making use of that? I would rather a solicitor than a union rep? Im not a member of a unionj, so even if I join today they will not support ongoing disputes.

Offline Gibson335

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Cully

Each to their own.  My personal experience of unions is that, when it comes to issues like this, they simply don't deliver.  I find it laughable that you think a full time union official knows more about employment law than a solicitor who specialises in employment law.  I think your use of the term 'might of the union' suggests where you're coming from in this.  Two other people close to me have had employment disputes.  Their unions allowed the issues to drag on far too long, and each were ultimately resolved after a single meeting with a solicitor, within a month of the initial meeting.  I guess it depends on whether you think keeping your job under working conditions you can live with are worth a couple of hundred pounds.  I think we'll have to agree to disagree - I simply don't have the faith you do in unions.

Wobbler

No, of course nothing can prevent you being dismissed if your employer decides everything that can be done has been done and any improvement is still unsuitable.  But knowing the rules and abiding by them gives you a much greater chance of winning any tribunal.  I don't suggest people dive straight in, in fact it must always be prefereable to resolve the matter amicably.  But I advocate people informing themselves and then playing each card as they need to.  Employers will try to wear you down, but if you retain your focus you can only help yourself.

If people want to rely on unions, well that's their decision.  I will always advise people to seek the correct legal advice, simply because I think a job is worth spending a few quid on in order to keep.  And despite what people might say, a union isn't free.  By now I would have paid around £500 in union fees in my current emplyment, whereas my legal advice cost me £125.00 + VAT.

I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline bt1307

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Hi,

I haven't read all your responses as I am having a bad day and struggling to read but wanted to offer my advice as a suffer and an employer. I have dealt with many cases covered by Equality Act, so have some experience.

Your employer is entitled to progress you through their absence policy whether or not you are covered by the Equality Act. There is no right to have related absences discounted as it where.
However, this is what they are obligated to do as part of that progression, or prior to that progression.

They MUST put in place reasonable interventions to put you in a comparable position with employees who do not have a covered illness.
One such reasonable intervention is often deemed to be an increased level of absence. (this is not unlimited absence)
Other interventions could be opportunity for regular breaks, natural lighting, eyecare vouchers, large screens (if you are a computer user).

The  key word here is reasonable, and what your employer would be challenged in, if they were to progress you formally, is whether you had requested something that they could have accommodated without unreasonable cost, hiring another employee to cover your duties, unreasonable pressure on your colleagues having to pick up your duties for example.

My advice to you would be to think hard about what you are asking for. Write down what support you need from your employers and assess whether you are being reasonable in what you are asking for.
If you think you are then stick to your guns. You are protected and your employer is obligated to do everything they can to support you.

 Maybe you could advise the school subscribe to the Employers Forum on Disability, they can offer fantastic advice on how to support individuals covered by the Equality Act, without leaving themselves open to tribunal.

Jo

Offline Divyj

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 I have asked them to disregard absences directly related to md such as when I had surgery etc. this advice was given by ehrc. It also suggests they do this on my occ health report. I have tried to explain to them that giving me a trigger of 2-3 days is putting a time constraint on my recovery and causes me much anxiety as worried I might be disciplined if I take time off etc. feel boxed in a corner by it all. Have reccomended on numerous occasions they get advice but still havnt?

Offline Divyj

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Also I have reccomended that I come into work and do light duties but they have refused its either fit to work or not?

Offline Gibson335

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As Jo has suggested, they won't disregard your MD absences, but they should record them separately from absences that are not disability related.  Absences for things like surgery again can't be disregarded, just recorded correctly - I assume you would have covered yourself with a certificate even if it wasn't longer than a week?

It seems a bit harsh to me that they won't accept light duties, but again it's their right to do so - at least until you can put something more formal into play.
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline Divyj

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Yea I have asked them to disregard MD absences as sick leave and record them as disability leave. Im getting confused with everything now.


Its amazing how this much stress cen effect MD symptoms - feel dreadful:(

Offline bt1307

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It will depend upon your policy's but usually a company would not progress someone even into the informal monitoring stages, which it sounds like you are in for pro-active surgery. This would be considered very poorly at a tribunal, so long as the time you had taken was only the reasonable time to be expected for the operation and normal recovery. Complications that extended the absence could be progressed.

Most companies would not normally monitor sickness absence and disability absence separately, but would cover them together but would understand that there may be a higher level of absence.

For example your company may have a policy where everyone goes into monitoring when they hit the trigger of say 3 periods of absence in 12 months  irrespective of cause, but once in monitoring they may put in place the "reasonable interventions"

This does sound like what could be going on with you and I think what we need to look at is whether what we are asking for is reasonable and are they re-acting fairly to those requests.

Firstly, setting the target of no more than 3 periods - what period of time is this over is it 6 months?. This could infact be considered reasonable, but I think it is too prescriptive for this ill health. i would ask them how they have identified this as a reasonable level of absence that can be accommodated. Have they calculated this based on the level of loss that can be tolerated by the business or is this in fact, as I think more likely, a figure just plucked out of thin air.  What target would be set for an individual who wasn't covered under the Equality Act and I would then challenge them around what they know about your ill health to come up with this target for improvement.

Secondly, with reference to the light duties. What reduction in duties are you looking for, is it a mild deviation from your role for a temporary period, or does it substantial modify the role for an indefinite period? What effect will this modification have of your company's ability to deliver the primary task you were recruited for, will they have to recruit some one else to fulfill your role, will it put unfair pressure on colleagues or were you actually doing more than you should in the first place.

For both, I would approach the meeting by coming prepared with what YOU are doing to regain your health, the positive lifestyle steps you are taking, diet changes, stress reduction techniques, medical appointments etc, to show you are being proactive.

Then remind your employer that all you are asking them to do is to support you during this transition period to achieve the best health you can, but that you will probably always be unwell to some extent and that this is why you ARE protected by the equality act.
You are a valuable employee and your disability does not alter this. They have a legal obligation not to discriminate against you because you are unwell and if they are uncertain on how best to support your condition they would be best placed to seek advice

I know it is stressful and solicitors can be expensive, I would recommend speaking to the CAB, they can give you free advice (sorry I know this is a long email)

Jo

Offline Divyj

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Thanks for your post Jo, they have set me the target of 3 days in a school term, but I was signed off work by my gp on Thursday for a week so that goes out the window! When I be asked for light duties I've just requested that on days where I feel very unbalanced that I don't have to cover any lessons so I don't have the anxiety of being sick in lessons infront of the kids? On days I'm well I want to do my job!

Offline bt1307

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3 days in a school term does seem unreasonable too be honest. I thought you meant 3 periods.
So 1 period of 3 days would lead to you progressing onto formal action?

I am no lawyer, so wouldn't want you taking my advice as legal or anything, you must get some proper advice, I am only speaking from the experience I have from hearing a number of appeals within my organisation, and working closely with a number of organisations that support Employers with the Equality Act.

If it was me I would document to your employer that you do not believe they are putting in place the reasonable interventions they are required to do so under the Equality Act, and the reasons you believe your requests are reasonable. ie why you think they can accommodate them without any serious detriment to themselves or your colleagues.  Put into this all the steps that you are taking to improve your health and to show that you are willing to work with them. I know it is expensive but I would then get this checked by a specialist, like I say I am no solicitor and this is your job and your employers. I wouldn't want to make it any worse for you by you doing something that just aggravates them.  :(

Offline Divyj

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Its all quite laughable really - I actually have copies of documents where the HR manager has written on them -' need to increase triggers for disability'. None of my back to work interview have had any comment whether my absences were due to disability, even tho its a question with boxes to check - ive never directly been asked, but then again she didnt bother to note that I had sought medical advice and had new meds last time - which I thought might be useful for risk assesments etc!!
And the target were never put in place. He was going to set me 2 - the same as everyone else - untill i burst out crying as was full of flu that day and said I shouldnt have even been there then? He told me he was doing me a favour.

Im now having that i period of 3 days sickness so again am really anixious as to what I will be going back to - im sure I will have a letter within a week of my return asking me to attend a stage 1 formal meeting.

I also have a letter off them stating they will check whther I am or I am not on the disability register - inspite of them having my occ health report stating that the condition is covered under DDA. That mekes me feel they havnt believed a word Ive been saying for last 18 months.

Am hioping to see solicitor next week while Im off, not going to speak to them till then?

Offline bt1307

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The disability register has nothing to do with it and would indicate they don't know what they are doing with regards to the Equality Act.

You can be registered disabled for certain illnesses and for disability benefits etc, but  for the Equality Act you are given protection if you have any illness which has or is likely to cause a regular or daily long term impairment. Long term is considered to be over 12 months. Some illnesses are automatically covered, for example cancer. Other will be dependent upon their circumstances.
For example anxiety if triggered by work may not be covered but someone suffering from long term debilitating panic attacks would be.

I believe that someone has mentioned earlier that MD is specifically mentioned as being covered, I am not sure?

Definitely take the advice, you should get 30mins free or relatively cheap advice from the solicitor, then you can decide whether you wish to enlist their services.

Let me know how you go on, and don't go back to work until you are well enough to xx

Offline Divyj

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I know, I think the fact that they are daft enough to put that in writing to me just backs up my argument they dont get it!!! Im hoping I gert some free legal advice through my house indurance policy. i rang a solicitor last week and he gave me a few pointers but told me he charged £200 an hour but it was him who told me to see if insurance covers it. not something I would have thought of doing but it seems I might qualitfy!

Thanks to everyone for advice and support - lets see what tomorrow brings, but my priority is me from here on in and Im going to take the time to make sure Im feeling tiptop!

Offline Gibson335

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When you seek advice on something this is often the result - different points of view, different versions of the same thing, different experiences, etc, etc.  Do you rely on a union, do you go to CAB, do you visit a solicitor?  In the end you have to do what feel comfortable for you (and what's affordable, too, obviously).  I chose the legal route because I felt it would bring about the quickest resolution, which it did.  Time is a factor for us all, as the longer it goes on the more pressure it cranks up.  Remember, also, you may only be at the beginning of your journey on this matter.

Perhaps the best advice I can offer is to stay calm, act reasonably and professionally at all times, be as flexible as you can be, and try not to take any of it personally.

Hope it goes well for you.

Tony
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline Trurzy

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I haven't been able to read all these posts yet (busy applying to the DVLA and hoping that I can keep my driving licence).

I am an experienced HR Manager,  I have Meniere's and I understand the Employment Law side of things, the Equality side of things, the management side of things and most importantly, the employee with Meniere's side of things too. I cannot promise that I am an expert in any of these areas but I will try to help.

I am really sorry about what's been going on, mostly because things like this should be handled sensitively by managers and not make you feel the way you are. I will come back on tomorrow to see if I can help in any way...

In the meantime, please do PM me if there is anything you think I might be able to specifically help with.


Offline Divyj

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Thanks would appreciate Any advice u might have.

Offline Trurzy

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It seems to me that you have already had some very good advice - in particular bt1307 has already said many things that I would have said.  I will add in my tuppence worth as well and hope that it helps.

I would start off by saying that this does not seem to have been handled as well as it could be. Anything that makes you feel that you cannot stay at work because you are stressed and you are upset by what has happened, especially when it is about your health, is not very helpful for anyone, especially you.

What I would say though is that whilst the organisation are not allowed to discriminate against you (ie treat you detrimentally) because of your health, it does not mean that they cannot do anything because of your health. For example, we would normally meet with people to informally review their attendance record whether or not we know what it wrong with them, whether or not it is serious, whether or not we believe them and whether or not it is a disability. This is because informally reviewing absences is usually done to understand what is causing those absences, help the organisation better predict the absences, understand what they can do about it and so on. This is as true of absences caused by a disability as it is for those who are taking the mickey or are genuinely ill but it is not caused by a disability. Escalating it to a formal process though is different - if you have a disability that is likely to make you absent from work, then it would be unfair to take you to disciplinary at the same rate as someone who does not have a disability as you are more likely (due to your disability) to reach that stage earlier.  

If it is a formal meeting (ie one where a decision will be made) then you do have the right to take along a work colleague or a TU rep. If you don't have a TU rep I would strongly recommend you take someone else along that you trust but that also will be truthful and objective with you. They should be able to help make sure that you raise everything you want to raise, understand everything that is being discussed and are treated fairly. As these are personal matters which we can all be a little more sensitive about at times, it does help if you can discuss it with them honestly afterwards to get a clearer picture - being able to get an honest answer from a question like "do you think they were fair?" is going to be better in the long run for you than someone who will either agree with you or the people holding the meeting all the time.

If it is not a formal meeting (ie they just want to discuss things with you) then you don't have the right to be accompanied, but if you explain that you are worried about the meetings and that stress makes your condition worse, then it would have to be a very cold hearted or unreasonable person who would not at least let you have someone in the meeting with you even if they could not contribute to the meeting.

Take notes and ask to see copies of any notes that they take so you know what it going onto your record. I personally would advise against taking a dictaphone in unless it has been agreed to beforehand - it changes the dynamic of the meeting and can make people react in different ways. But that would be a personal decision you would take.

When I have meetings about my MD I try to make sure I am clear about what I want to get out of the meeting too - so I have an idea of what I want to say, to understand, to ask before I go in. Ususally all these meetings should be 2 way, so you can use an opportunity to get what you need to out of the meeting.

Think about what might be concerning them, and try to address it where you can. If they are worried that you will have a lot of time off, think about what you can do to counteract this (ie reasonable adjustments), For example, can you give them warning (I often inform my manager if I am going through a bad patch so they are aware I might need to leave in a hurry), can you work additional hours/duties when you are feeling well to make up for the times that you can't? Can you limit the amount of time you are off? As you have said, you are trying to keep your job, so try to focus on what you can do to keep it. But also think about what they can do to support you - these are their reasonable adjustments. The emphasis is on reasonable as for as management are concerned. So raise as many suggestions as you can and ask them what they think they can do to make adjustments. Then they will need to tell you whether it is reasonable or not, and if not why. Examples of reasonable adjustments off the top of my head are giving you a longer timescale before taking formal action about any absences, allowing you to work flexible duties for a while, giving you lighter duties for a while, giving you a longer period of paid sick absence than they do for non-disabled employees, or not counting the disability absences in with your normal sickness absences (which is what many organisations do)

In terms of the bit about you walking out without permission, if you did do this (no matter what reason) then concentrate on explaining why you took the action. If you did not, then try to get any witnesses to it to write a statement or come to a formal meeting, or to agree to be quetsioned by them about it. No matter what happens, your employers will want some understanding and reassurance that it won't happen in the future. If you ask them what the best route to take is if you are in a similar situation, then you can agree to follow that again if you even need to leave in a hurry again.

I hope that you find the legal advice you receive useful, and that the meetings with your management team are more positive moving forward. I hope that you are able to explain to them about MD (the tools that others have offered will be invaluable) and how it affects you and reach agreement about the support and reasonable adjustments you need so that you can keep doing your job.

Please do PM me if you want any advice at all and you think I may be able to help.

Offline The Wobbler

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So you are running with the fox and with the hounds Trurzy.  What an interesting situation!

I don’t want to hijack the thread but can you explain the concept of an informal meeting at which notes are kept and then added to your personnel file.  I might be a bit old fashioned here but that sounds like minutes, and that makes it seem formal.

To put it another way how do you differentiate between an informal and a formal meeting?  And do they have different connotations in employment law?

Offline bt1307

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Just to add, as I think I am in a similar situation to Trurzy, that the first stages of our absence policy are informal meetings that are documented. The Formal part refers to the progression to a "formal warning" in the old words - that's not how we term it now but it means the same thing.

We would only progress to the formal stage once we knew we had done everything we could during the informal stage

Offline Trurzy

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We probably use the phrasing in HR more than other people do. The main difference between a formal meeting and an informal one is that formal meetings are ones where there are certain things that employers need to do either by law or to comply with an ACAS code of practice: invite the person to the meeting with notice, in writing, offer the right to be accompanied and usually the right to appeal. They are usually meetings that result in a decision being taken that affects your employment.

Informal meetings on the other hand are any other meetings that you attend which don't have a legal framework that employers need to follow.

The classic example is a disciplinary meeting which needs to be formal ie you need to be invited to that that meeting in writing, with notice, offered the right to be accompanied and the right to appeal against the decision. However,  there could be other meetings you have such as an investigatory meeting (to decide whether a disciplinary is necessary) or a meeting about your conduct which does not result in a formal warning, so an appraisal, performance review meeting or just a meeting with your manager to discuss your conduct. There might still be notes made of these meetings but they do not result in formal action being taken.

In terms of health there is not a standard legal process but most employers will have some sort of formal process that will be used when someone's absence is impacting on their ability to do the job they are employed to do. But there could also be informal meetings about your health such as return to work meetings or general catch up meetings.

Hope that explains it...

Offline The Wobbler

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Thank you both.  That is very enlightening.

So at the end of the informal process, when everything that can be done has been exhausted, (work place adjustments etc.) a formal process then starts.

If you suffer with MD and are unable to fulfil your contractual obligations and cannot be redeployed elsewhere in the business I am going to assume that the outcome is most likely to be ‘dismissal on the grounds of capability through ill-health’.  I believe that that is the scenario facing a good friend (cough) of mine.

Questions

How long does the formal process take?

If you are dismissed are you only entitled to standard notice periods with no pay-off/no redundancy monies?

Offline Gibson335

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One more hijack of the formal/informal meeting issue.  I attended my initial 'informal' meetings, during which minutes were kept.  These minutes, which were subsequently referred to at 'formal' meetings were entirely one-sided and slanted to include comments taken out of context.  However, after the initial set of minutes I made a formal complaint about them, and following the meeting during which those minutes were referred to I made another complaint and subsequently got them dropped from the records.  It's all very well employers talking in terms of formal and informal, and I fully accept that informal meetings are used to open up the discussions, but at a supposedly informal meeting I was both offered a 'gardening leave' pay off, and I was told that if I accepted it any reference I needed would be slanted favourably, but if I didn't any reference would not favour me.  Now, to me, these are far too in-depth to be asked at an informal meeting, but it happened, and I left wishing I'd taken someone with me - which is why I advise others to do the same (whether or not that's perceived as the wrong approach by some).
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline squib

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All I have to say is that I was dismissed through ill health capability back in February this year and it is the best thing that has happened to me. I was in an extremely stressful job working on the phones for a large bank and for 6 years could not seem to get myself well ( I have had MD for about 8 years ). It was not the best of jobs for someone like us and after 2 years of various meetings etc the decision was made. The company would state that they had done all they could for me but in the case of reasonable adjustments they were never sustained i.e they would put something in place and then after a few days this would go. I did appeal the decision as I felt they had not looked thoroughly at re-deployment and that meeting lasted 6 hours until I had almost lost the will to live. The decision was the same to dismiss but the letter stated that they felt that I had been discriminated against in certain aspects and that they would pass on notes to H.R so lessons could be learnt. No help to me. It was very scary at the time and I do understand some of what you are going through and wanted to offer my support. Just wanted to let you know as now I can concentrate on my health which has improved and look forward to the next chapter of my life.

Lynne x

Offline bt1307

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Each employer will differ, depending on what they can reasonably accommodate.

I work for a very large company, with 10's of thousands of employee's so it is reasonable that we can accommodate the cost of longer absences.

Our informal monitoring typically lasts 6 months once you have hit a trigger, once in monitoring, any other absence could lead to a formal review, but there are 3 stages a first, final then dismissal.

If covered under the Equality Act, the triggers are much less severe and we do work extremely closely with the individual to ensure we have done everything we can. We have been praised by independent bodies for the steps we go to to support the employee, but sometimes it is much harder for smaller employers who don't have the legal departments, policy etc behind them

It's such a difficult and emotive area, but I think Lynne is right, sometimes it is the hardest decisions in life that can be the best for us.

I hope it works out for everyone, I do know how you all feel, as I am there too (though I don't think they'd dare try it on with me lol), I have my interventions in place, and am being monitored under our informal absence policy, so I do know how it feels

xxxx

Offline Jo-Jo

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Hi I've found it very interesting reading all the comments. I am a TA in a primary school and also have bilateral md. Have had it now for 4 years. I have to say my boss has been wonderful. I have so much time off lately ( 7 weeks in 6 months  :() and now waiting for my 4th surgical procedure. I must say I don't think he would be so understanding if it wasn't for the fact that his own family member also suffers with md so he can appreciate the difficulties I have.
 On many occasions I have had an attack of dizziness infront of the children and its also happened when we have been on trips. (Not allowed on them anymore) but I am concerned about my job. I think theres only so much an employer is able to accept on a sickness level and im now wondering when I will be asked to have a meeting relating to my sickness?

Offline The Wobbler

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All I have to say is that I was dismissed through ill health capability back in February this year and it is the best thing that has happened to me. I was in an extremely stressful job working on the phones for a large bank and for 6 years could not seem to get myself well ( I have had MD for about 8 years ). It was not the best of jobs for someone like us and after 2 years of various meetings etc the decision was made. The company would state that they had done all they could for me but in the case of reasonable adjustments they were never sustained i.e they would put something in place and then after a few days this would go. I did appeal the decision as I felt they had not looked thoroughly at re-deployment and that meeting lasted 6 hours until I had almost lost the will to live. The decision was the same to dismiss but the letter stated that they felt that I had been discriminated against in certain aspects and that they would pass on notes to H.R so lessons could be learnt. No help to me. It was very scary at the time and I do understand some of what you are going through and wanted to offer my support. Just wanted to let you know as now I can concentrate on my health which has improved and look forward to the next chapter of my life.

Lynne x


squib

You have made me think there.  There is no doubt in my mind that stress and the immune system are playing significant parts in this wonderful condition that we have.

Psychoneuroimmunology is a big word and hard to spell, however I think there is a link with what you are saying about your improvement since dismissal.

It is just that the word ‘dismissal’ seems a harsh, terminal and impoverishing way to end your employment.  Not that it seems we ultimately get much choice in the matter!

Offline chrissieg

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I left work in March 2011 . Everything fell into place- I had been there 32 years so built up a reasonable public sector pension,my lovely training role was ending and I was going to have to take a pay cut and go back to manageing a full caseload of offenders, I was increasiningly worried about my reliability with MD and then redundancy was offered for 20 staff. As I was over 55, I could also take my pension early- it was too good an offer to refuse. I now just do 8 hours a week sessional training on my terms.

I believe it has made a huge difference to my well being. I absolutely loved my job and pre MD , I used to say I will go on forever and probaly volunteer after they make me leave.But the removal of that stress has been life changing. I dont think it was the nature of the role or the hours which made it stressful, it was the need to be reliable when you felt lousy , letting people down and the fear that I may have an attack in a professionally embarrassing situation eg in court or the middle of prison wing.

I am really lucky that my partner has just started a better new job which he loves so we can afford for me to leave and I dont feel guilty as he is so happy there. But I think, even so, if I had known how much better not struggling on would be, I would have left sooner or taken the income reduction anyway.
Stress is a funny thing and its not always obvious what is causing it.

Chrissie
Chrissieg

Offline Gibson335

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.But the removal of that stress has been life changing. I dont think it was the nature of the role or the hours which made it stressful, it was the need to be reliable when you felt lousy , letting people down and the fear that I may have an attack in a professionally embarrassing situation
I can certainly relate to this.  Unfortunately, I need to work and will have to do so for as long as I physically can.
I intend to live forever...so far so good.

Offline cuddlescat

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Both posts above strike home

I've already reduced my job after my bp diagnosis i was told no more full time work and no more management. i was a retail manager of small branch of large company.  so i left and the bit of money i get from dla helped a bit with the substantial pay cut.

Now i work as a nobody  at another store also of a large company. .
On 16 hrs a week min wage. they've been very supportive and already adjusted my working patterns yo suit. but now with this important finding it hard to cope with those.

i have to work for my mental health but also with everything going up financially to
but im getting to point where i can't do much less job wise we can't downsize house any smaller

im getting bit stressed as was hoping togo back to work Fri but went to chemist this morn & was staggering like crazy giddy ss heck slept for 2 hrs when got back so can't see focus saying that
2moro but i don't get paid when im off sure this id not helping


Breathe in courage; breathe out fear

Offline Divyj

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Hi

thanks to everyone who has responded to my post. Ive been feeling really dreadful in last few days - constant unbalance and nausea - feel like im waiting to explode. Im sure the stress of returning to work next week isnt helping? I know my doctor will sign me off if i want him to but I guess I have to go back one day and its only 3 weeks till summer break?

Theres no update as to whats happening with work as I have had no contact with them. hey ho, its all getting me down tbh!

Thanks


Offline bt1307

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If you aren't ready to go back you shouldn't, though I know what you mean about having to face it one day, and will it make it worse putting it off.

I really wish I could say something to help as you're in a catch 22, you need to be off to get better, but you need to get back and face what ever will happen to deal with the anxiety. Not a good place

Hugs from me

xxx