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Hi. I’m hoping someone will be able to advise me whether I’m being over sensitive or whether I have cause for concern. I have been with my present employer for almost 2 years and have had good working relationships with my previous 2 managers. A new manager recently took over the team and this is where things started to get difficult.

Last year I had 2 months off work with depression, followed by another couple of absences with the same thing later in the year. All were supported by doctor’s notes so no problems there. A company trigger point was reached – again not a problem – so I was referred for an OH assessment. I saw the OH doctor last month and he seemed very sympathetic and understanding. He advised that as my depression has lasted for several years on and off and has a high chance of recurring (I’m currently on antidepressants anyway) then it would be covered under DDA legislation. In his report he recommended that I ought to be able to continue to work from home occasionally (reasonable adjustment), when I’m having a particularly bad day.

Shortly after the new manager took over, I received an email advising that she would arrange some time with me to discuss “my situation”. A few days later she called me into a room with her and a lady from HR to discuss the OH doctor’s report. I had no prior notice of this meeting so it caused some anxiety. My manager asked me if the issues which had triggered last year’s symptoms had now been resolved. This really showed no understanding of depression at all, as it’s not necessarily due to external factors, as has been pointed out by the OH doctor and my counsellor. She asked me if there were any reasonable adjustments that the company could make, to which I replied, just to be understanding when I’m having a bad day. There are days when I can’t face speaking to anyone, but am well able to do a day’s work from home just getting my head stuck into things. This has no detrimental affect on the business. I work as an IT business analyst.

Following the meeting I received an email outlining the discussion, the last paragraph stating that I had said there were no reasonable adjustments that the company could make to support me. I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply because I don’t know where to turn.

Yesterday I spoke to my manager as an incident with my car last week left me with no money to put fuel in the car to make the 80 mile round trip to work. I intended to have this sorted over the weekend so asked if I would be able to work from home or take annual leave for the 2 days. She left the room, arranged a lift for me for today with some bloke in the office whom I’ve never spoken to (I have no idea what she told him) and said that if I was to take Friday off it would have to be unpaid. When I asked why it couldn’t be annual leave she said that it was too short notice. The annual leave policy states that approval of annual leave at short notice is at the manager’s discretion based on business need. Now, if I’m allowed to take the day as unpaid leave, which will exacerbate my financial difficulty, why couldn’t it be taken as annual leave? I believe her decision is punitive. She asked me how it would be if everyone on the team made such requests. Everyone on the team doesn’t suffer with depression. And it’s not like I’m asking all the time for last minute leave. Another team member requested leave for Friday the day before I did and it was granted. So what’s the difference?

Sorry for such a long post!

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Is there an agenda here do you think to make life difficult for you?

 

I think that you should write and dispute the fact that no reasonable adjustments were requested and put forward those that were discussed and in hindsight more could be done eg never to call meetings at such short notice and such meeting to be arranged in writing to give you a chance to prepare for them to reduce the anxiety that you feel. You may think of others so include them too.

 

You could put in a grievance alleging that you have been discriminated against on the basis that you were treated differently to the other colleague who was not disabled. Once the grievance is in you could be protected from further detriments because to treat you differently whilst having a grievance in would be victimisation.

 

However........ do you really want to take the company on????? You probably will not win because they will back each other up and you could make you situation worse by fighting management. If you end up going sick again you will no doubt be discipline for capability and then you have a problem of taking them to the ET.

 

Check you have Insurance for legal cover eg on your home contents insurance. Or perhaps have union help (although personally unions seem to let their members down on discrimination matters) If you don't have cover perhaps you should get some quick and then wait for the qualifying period and the next incident before taking them on.

 

Fighting discrimination in the ET can be VERY stressful so be aware of what you are taking on.

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I fully agree with what papasmurf1cx has stated.

The fact that you were unable to come into work due to your finances would not (in my opinion) amount to a discriminatory practise by the employer.

However, it is obvious this manageress has little understanding of your "mental impairment". I would put in writing to her that the next time she wants a meeting with you, that you are given "reasonable" notice prior to any meeting taking place.

Further, it sounds to me like she is covering the company's liability issue, with regard to your impairment, by placing in writing that there are no further "reasonable adjustments" the company can make for you. These are her words and not yours!

Has the company (i) undertaken a risk assessment to assess the "risk of harm" to your health - or, was this meeting the "risk assessment" after the meeting with your OH DR?

The employer has a "duty of care" to recognise the accumulative effects of both "anxiety" and "depression" have upon your "abilities and capabilities" to undertake you job role.

Depression is ongoing, and anxiety/panic attacks are usually part and parcel of this impairment (depression). Therefore, it might be worth discussing with your doctor any anxiety disorders you have, and getting these imputed on to your medical records in the event you find the need to refer to a Tribunal at a later date. The more strings you can add to your bow, places a greater "duty of care" upon your employer to act with "due diligence".

Good luck.

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Giggins I suggested on the basis that allowing annual leave for one employee and short notice and disallowing it for the OP could be the discriminatory not so much as for disallowing it because of finances. The manager allowing the OP to take the day off unpaid seems to suggest that a business need was not an issue. Obviously the full facts are not available but at least suggesting that a discriminatory practice has gone on would put the employer on the back foot and a need to differentiate would be needed.

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You could put in a grievance alleging that you have been discriminated against on the basis that you were treated differently to the other colleague who was not disabled.

 

We do't know this. The OP may not know if this other person is disabled - especially if the other persons' disabilities are invisible.

 

With regards to "reasonable notice" for meetings, I would also suggest how much notice you think you need.

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We do't know this. The OP may not know if this other person is disabled - especially if the other persons' disabilities are invisible.

 

With regards to "reasonable notice" for meetings, I would also suggest how much notice you think you need.

 

Well the OP did say " Everyone on the team doesn’t suffer with depression." so the inference is the other person was not disabled.

 

The OP although knowing a meeting was being planned was "called me into a room with her and a lady from HR" which suggests that the OP did not really have notice that it was to happen at that time ie was ambushed.

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  • 5 months later...

Hello again

 

Since I last wrote I have had a couple of periods of work with anxiety/depression - 2 weeks in April and then 6 weeks from the end of June. At my RTW interview my manager informed me that she would be holding an "investigation meeting" sometime in the following couple of weeks. I am now at the end of my third week back and have only today received an invitation to the meeting, which is to take place next Wednesday. In the invitation it states:

 

"The reason for this meeting is to establish the facts regarding absence levels.

This allegation potentially constitutes misconduct under the company disciplinary procedure. If this is confirmed then any disciplinary action that may be taken might result in a formal warning being issued."

I have read the company's attendance management policy, as well as the disciplinary and capability policies, and am upset that she has chosen to go down the disciplinary route. I had an OH appointment at the end of February, and the doctor who saw me and prepared the report stated that my condition is likely to be covered under the DDA (now Equality Act) and that further episodes were likely to recur and that the severity or frequency could not be predicted.

At the time of the appointment, my work life was not contributing to my ill health, but recently it has. I may be over-sensitive, but I find my new manager difficult to deal with. An example of her behaviour is that one day last week I arrived at work at approximately 9.45. I have always understood that there is no set starting time, and that so long as we are in the office by 10am we are not classed as "late". A couple of minutes before I arrived, my manager called me and asked if I was on my way in. When I arrived, she asked me to see her in an office, and asked me why I was late. My response was that I'd overslept, although really I didn't think I was "late" anyway. The way she makes me feel makes it difficult for me to express anything. I am also taking 30mg mirtazapine every night which knock me out and make it difficult to get up in the mornings. Incidentally, today, one of my colleages arrived at 9.45 and another at 9.55. They do not work for the same manager as me, and she is not in our office every day.

I am now dreading this meeting next week, and am trying to think who I could ask to accompany me. I have been advised, as I believe is standard practice, that I can be accompanied by a colleague or a TU rep. I'm not in a union, so it will have to be a colleague. I feel isolated, as the company has recently undergone some restructure and a lot of people I felt most comfortable with have now left. I think what I am dreading most is that I won't be able to speak up for myself and end up with a disciplinary warning on my record.

Also, at my RTW interview, my manager asked me about adjustments, but in a closed way. The wording was along the lines of "we don't need to make adjustments like last time, do we?" When I returned from a long period of absence last September I had a phased return to work with some working from home. The OH doctor even stated in his report that working from home on occasion was beneficial, as on some days I just can't face being in the office, but am able to perform a full day's work from home. I have a company laptop and mobile phone and so there is nothing I can do in the office that I can't do from my sofa.

Any advice on preparation would be welcomed.

Thanks in advance

Scarlett x

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Just a quick update: I've accepted the invitation and advised that my colleague will be accompanying me. I've also asked if she would send me a copy of all my sickness absences and copies of RTW interview forms. I hope I've done the right thing!

 

Scarlett x

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The reason for this meeting is to establish the facts regarding absence levels.

 

This allegation potentially constitutes misconduct under the company disciplinary procedure. If this is confirmed then any disciplinary action that may be taken might result in a formal warning being issued.

 

I think that you should ask, in writing, 'What allegation!', because they seem to have forgotten to include one ^.

Edited by mariefab
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I think the implied allegation is that there is something untoward about my sickness absences. I've had back my sickness record and have done some calculations. Over a 12 month period up to the date of the meeting next Wednesday, my total absences have amounted to 30%, of which 4.62% is non-depression related. There was a chest infection and a migraine in there. Over 6 months, total absence is 33.85%, non-depression relation is 0.77% (1 day!) All absences longer than 5 days have been certified by my GP and last week I gave my manager a letter from my counsellor confirming the sessions that I had had with him, at her request. I am still at a loss as to how this consitutes misconduct, and surely would be better dealt with under the capability policy. It almost seems vicious that she's chosen this route, given that she has seen the OH report.

 

I am at a point where I dread coming here, especially if I know she's going to be here. I feel sick if I see her number come up on my phone, or if I see an e-mail from her - about anything! I even put off requesting annual leave, even if the request is made within policy, making sure that I offer an explanation as to why I need the day/s off!! There was a cock-up with my counselling appointment a couple of weeks ago, and it was changed to a different day. It took me 3 hours to calm down enough to phone her to let her know, and I even offered to take the additional half day as annual leave.

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While I do agree with you that doubts about the reasons for the absences is probably is the implied allegation. The point I was making is that you can't be sure from that letter and you should be properly informed of what kind of meeting you're attending.

 

'The reason for this meeting is to establish the facts regarding absence levels'.

To start with, that's pretty unfortunately worded.

She knows what your sick levels are, you've sent in sick/fit notes, there's an OH report and you've had RTW meetings. What other 'facts' need to be established?

 

'This allegation potentially constitutes misconduct under the company disciplinary procedure.'

What allegation? Is she going to suggest that you've been seen out clubbing, doing another job or whatever; when you were supposed to be off sick?

Because that would be an allegation of misconduct.

While there may be a absence management/capability issue, your sickness levels and the reasons for them don't constitute any kind of misconduct.

 

'If this is confirmed then any disciplinary action that may be taken might result in a formal warning being issued.'

If what is confirmed? Again, what misconduct are you being accused of?

Also, it isn't clear to me whether this meeting is just investigatory or if the meeting is a disciplinary one.

 

It's possible that she's looking to give you a formal warning that the level of your sickness absence cannot be maintained. That wouldn't be unreasonable, however it's impossible to tell.

But, whether or not that's the case, your employer should be considering what reasonable adjustments can be made to assist you to improve your attendance. Home-working, altering working hours, time off for appointments, supportive communication methods etc. (you could make a list). Whatever is appropriate for you.

It's their responsibility to do this, you shouldn't have to ask (especially when OH has said it's likely that you have a disability). Suggesting, as she did, that they don't need to make adjustments is the opposite of the correct behaviour.

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Thanks Mariefab. The meeting is an "investigation hearing" as stated in the letter (sorry I forgot to include that bit). I absolutely agree with you that being ill is not misconduct. That really is my issue. The company could have pursued this under the capability policy, but chose not to, and instead to use the disciplinary policy. Having given it some thought, and having read through as much as I can with regard to policy, I think I do need to ask exactly what is alleged for this to be investigated as a potential case of misconduct, as you suggested earlier. I am reluctant to make waves, but I have a right to defend myself. Under the attendance management policy, absence can be investigated as a disciplinary issue if a pattern suggests abuse. I don't see how having a recognised, long-term mental health issue, with all absences certified by a doctor, constitutes abuse.

 

Both disciplinary and capability policies state that "any relevant investigation notes, witness statements and documents will accompany this notification." The notification being notification of the disciplinary/capability hearing. All I received with the invitation was a copy of the disciplinary policy, which is freely available on the intranet anyway. So if there is other evidence that she wants to bring to the table, shouldn't I have it beforehand? Or is that the point of the investigation meeting? I'm worried that she will try and catch me off-guard about something else. Although the letter clearly states that the purpose of the meeting is to establish facts about my absence, so wouldn't anything else be out of scope and unfair?

 

I am writing an e-mail now as follows:

 

Dear Manager

 

I have read the letter and the disciplinary policy. One thing that is unclear in the letter is what the alleged misconduct is. Please would you let me know what I am accused of so that I am properly able to prepare a response? Thank you.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

How does that sound?

 

Thanks

Scarlett x

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Sounds perfect!

 

If the response doesn't clear up why this is being conducted under the disciplinary policy instead of the (more appropriate) capability policy, you could query that on receipt.

 

A pattern suggesting abuse would usually be something like: having a lot of Mondays off or calling in sick after they know that you've been out partying.

Someone with a known disability having periods of sickness absence is, as indicated by OH, likely to happen from time to time.

 

As you, understandably, find it difficult to engage with them about reasonable adjustments when put on the spot; I think it would be a good idea for you to prepare a statement about any reasonable adjustments that you feel could assist you to hand in at the meeting.

I did this myself this year. I made a list of suggestions and after each one put the reason why I thought it would help. The reasons were a bit repetitive but I found that the list was very helpful; especially as I too was dealing with a manager with no understanding of my disability.

 

Have a think about what aspects of your job could be changed to help you cope better.

Working from home is obviously one. Consider how that could be done. Would it be best to change your current working pattern so that you always work from home on certain days? Would it be helpful if you could call in at 9 to let them know that you'd be working from home that day whenever necessary? Why not go for both? As the prospective end result is likely to be that you will need to take fewer periods of sickness absence and will therefore be more productive it's a win-win solution that they would need to have a good reason for refusing to implement.

 

Always having a phased return after periods of absence is another one. Suggest what would be a good timetable for you in these instances that would assist you to work your way back up to speed in a way that would be less likely to lead to further setbacks. Another win-win.

 

You might want to consider permanently altering or reducing your working hours to something that might suit you better. I know nothing about your line of work, but perhaps changes to methods of day to day communication, more notice of meetings/deadlines etc. would help.

 

Although the responsibility for doing all this really lies with your employer, they're obviously not doing it. You wouldn't be making waves; you'd simply be reminding them of/pointing out their statutory obligation to consider these matters

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Thanks again. I've sent the e-mail. I feel sick now. What a way to ruin my weekend! I've also been looking through my sent items and found an e-mail that I'd sent to her in April, advising that the doctor had signed me off for 2 weeks with anxiety and stress. I also stated in that e-mail that things at work were getting me down, particularly being made to feel that my illness was somehow my own fault, so I have previously let her know how the situation makes me feel.

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Well it's less than an hour until the dreaded meeting now. I received no response to my query about what was alleged, so have to assume that the allegation is one of a pattern of absences suggesting abuse. I have written some notes to help me focus during the meeting but am currently feeling awful. I just hope I can hold it together during the meeting and not go to pieces.

 

Scarlett x

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Well it's less than an hour until the dreaded meeting now. I received no response to my query about what was alleged, so have to assume that the allegation is one of a pattern of absences suggesting abuse. I have written some notes to help me focus during the meeting but am currently feeling awful. I just hope I can hold it together during the meeting and not go to pieces.

 

Scarlett x

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Hello again. After discussion, my manager and the HR representative decided against taking disciplinary action, which is good. however, they refused to allow me to work from home when necessary, saying that business needs won't allow it. I disagree with this, as I can do everything from home that I can do in the office. I also mentioned the effect my medication has on me, in that it makes me drowsy, leaving me feeling like I'm constantly running on empty, and that working from home one day a week would be a day without 3 hours travelling, allowing me to recharge my batteries. I also mentioned that, as stated in the OH report, there are days when I am unable to face people, but could still do a full day's work at home. My manager is going to put a "support plan" in place, which basically means I'm to make a list of the work I have to do in the next four weeks, and to flag any areas that I feel will cause me anxiety. I don't feel that this is getting to the crux of the issue.

 

I feel that I have been put through additional stress with the threat of disciplinary, when it was, in my opinion, inappropriate. I now await the minutes of the meeting, but am unsure what my next move should be. While I'm relieved that the threat of disciplinary has been removed, I will still have "bad days" and don't feel that that issue is being addressed. I have another meeting with my manager tomorrow to discuss the "support plan" so will see how that goes.

 

Thanks for your support.

Scarlett x

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Well done on getting to where you are now. At least they have backed off.

 

If you are feeling that their actions don't go to the heart of the problem, and you have the stomach / fight for it, then you should put in a grievance, once the report / minutes come out, as to Discrimination. They are failing to make reasonable adjustments and making it harder for you work than is actually necessary.

 

It is always a good idea to complain about the problem and offer a solution to it in the same breath. Why not complain in the grievance and state that you see the management's dilemma and request a trial period to give them confidence in what your solution is and close monitoring as to your productivity. ??? That way you get to prove what you are saying, they are seen to be reasonable and all sides are winners. Should they decline and / or start to punish you in some way then Discrimination / Victimisation may be your only route forward. If they have any sense they will give it a trial.

 

Bottom line is that you have to fight or give in. You could also answer previous posts as they may be needed ie legal protection insurance?

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Hiya

 

Been doing a bit of internet surfing as I do... [always a bad sign for somebody down the line...] and came across the following which I think you will find very very interesting:

 

http://www.formalgrievance.com/page13.htm

 

Enjoy.

 

And keep up the good fight. Lots of luck.

Edited by Gazza01
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