Forum

Is this discrimination?

Hi everyone!

I’m looking for some advice regarding work and what I think is beginning to feel like I’m being discriminated against.

Ok, so I’ve been with my employer for 2.5 years. Before I’d even signed my contract I told my boss about my MS and she was fine about it. I’ve even given her a letter from my ms nurse so she knows how the condition affects me. Up until June 2017 I worked almost entirely from home and popped into the office about once a week for an hour or so.

Then out of nowhere she decides that this current arrangement ‘was not working for her’ and she wanted me to come into the office more often and reduce my hours. Although I wasn’t happy about it I went along with her request as I really wanted to keep my job and I spend 3 hours twice a week in the office and work the remaining 14 hours at home.

Last week she said that because of staff meetings I would now be required to come into the office in the morning and stay until around 2pm one day a week so we can meet as a team. Although ive gone along with this it’s killing me and really aggravating my fatigue to the point I’m falling asleep at 5:30pm on meeting days. I’ve even told her this and now I’m spending 9 hours a week in the office.

The final straw was her mentioning that due to server issues I wouldn’t be able to work from home at all for around four months at the end of the week. When she noticed I was unhappy with this news she asked if the problem was because I have two dogs that would need to be let out in the afternoon or because of my condition. Basically I said it’s because of my ms because it’s possible to get a dog sitter but impossible to cure ms!

i feel that she’s making it impossible to do my job as I once did and don’t see the issue with me working from home whilst the server issue is resolved because a lot of the work I do is web based anyway.

Personally I feel that I’m being managed out of the business bit by bit and I’m no position to resign as I have nothing else to go to and would really struggle to find a suitable position. I’ve lost all faith with my boss and would love to leave, but it’s just not financially possible.

Im wondering if this counts as discrimination and if it would be worth contacting a solicitor to try and get a settlement agreement for me to leave as this is seriously affecting my physical and mental health.

Thank you all so much x

What does your contract of employment say? Get your contract and telephone ACAS and discuss it with them. You do NOT need to be a member of anything at all to use ACAS.

Hi Florence,

Thank you for replying.

I’ve had a look at it and basically it doesn’t say much of anything regarding place of work. It also doesn’t mention reasonable adjustments which I feel are being taken away but by bit. I have spoken to ACAS and they again told me to refer to my contract

I did speak to the MS legal advisor who was fantastic when I initially had to start attending the office instead of working completely from home and she said that removing this adjustment was wrong but did say that I needed to consider going along with it in an attempt to keep my job. However, this was back in May last year so things might have changed from a legal point of view.

As its a supposedly short term ‘server’ issue, you could do a day or so in the office & then be sick. It wouldn’t be untrue !!!

Very true Sarah, however she did say that it could be four months before I can work from home again! I’m really struggling now and most days I have to ask my partner to help me get dressed and have a shower so there’s no way I could cope for four whole months.

You mention you spoke to an MS legal advisor. Was it the MS Society legal advisor at the Disability Law Service? I found them really excellent when dealing with employment matters Multiple Sclerosis Legal Advice Line | Disability Law Service Good luck with it all.

Yes that’s the one! The lady I spoke to was fantastic so I’m going to give them another call tomorrow.

As been said speak to Acas and maybe the Equality commission? www.equalityhumanrights.com/en.

I think i read somewhere that under the equality act if you have MS you are automatically considered to have the “protected characteristic” of disability?? So your employer has a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”,it would seem very reasonable to me(though not an expert!) that your employer before that could firstly be expected to avoid making changes that adversely affect you as they have started to already.Ofcourse they would only have to comply if they were aware of your condition, so i would suggest putting something in writing(email is good and accepted as evidence in tribunals) and going over the head of your manager to HR (maybe let manager know so doesn’t seem sneeky?)who should have a better understanding of Equality act.But speak to an expert from Acas or Ec first.

I would hold fire on mentioning being paid off atleast for now,likely to be a low figure if atall if they think thats what you want,better if its their idea!

Good luck

Ollie

Reasonable adjustments are the law and not a part of an employment contract.

What exactly are your contracted hours and what is your place of work? What did you sign for in this respect?

Look at your job description and see if it defines anything connected with your place of work and hours. A manager cannot just change your contract and job description.

That’s a very weak response from ACAS and not my experience of them. Phone again an ask them for their legal team. They have their own solicitors.

I got a very inexperienced **** once and I said so and asked to be put on to a qualified person and I was referred. You need one of their lawyers not their ****'s

I’m contracted for 20 hours per week and according to my contract my place of work is defined as ‘the office, Home or any place deemed appropriate by the business’ which is a bit confusing!

According to the legal advice line lady the ‘place of work’ is wherever you’ve been carrying out your duties for 12 months, so I take that to mean my place of work is mainly at home.

I do think you should rope in a solicitor, yes. But not to carve out a settlement agreement - not yet. That would be a last resort, for sure, and it might come to that, but there is surely still plenty of scope for hammering out a deal that keeps you in work, and a solicitor in your corner should be able to help with that. Apart from anything else, knowing that you have legal representation fires a clear shot across the bows of Little Miss Boss and should encourage her to pay attention to her legal responsibilities and to her potential vulnerability to a messy discrimination claim if she doesn’t look out. That can change people’s attitudes quite a lot! Give it a go. It’s a financial investment, but a good outcome would be well worth it.

Alison

Thanks Ollie!

Sadly the company does not have a HR department and I report directly to the owner so there’s no one else I can discuss this with.

My boss is very aware that I have MS and as far as I’m aware I am covered by the protected characteristics.

Good advice about no mentioning the pay off too soon though, I hadn’t really thought of that!

Thank you Alison, that’s good advice.

To be honest I’ve been fighting the boss off for months - it’s obvious she wants me to leave and because I have an unblemished record as a good employee (no disciplinary action, very good attendance etc) there’s no reason for her to fire me.

Every few weeks I’m getting asked if I want to reduce my hours which I don’t and she even asked me if I wanted to quit once! I honestly believe this is all happening to force me out of my job, she’s even started sub contracting elements of my job out to third parties!

i just don’t know how much more I can take before I completely breakdown and walk away with nothing.

You’re right, the person I spoke to really didn’t seem to understand the situation at all and actually made me feel like a nuisance for calling!

Ill try again tomorrow and ask for someone who knows what they’re talking about!

Excellent advice from Alison. Firstly, your employer is just that - he/she is not your friend. Your boss is riding roughshod over you and wants reining in. Never mind unions or ACAS - make an appointment with an employment lawyer who is familiar with Disability issues. Get him/her to write to the head person outlining your concerns - how you are being harassed - outlining your rights - get him/her to mention things like discrimination/constructive dismissal etc. Don’t even think about walking away or resigning. Don’t feel apologetic - you are doing a good job. I hope you do fight this because we have to (hopefully) make things easier for the next generation of workers with disabilities.

1 Like

Thank you for your kind words, I admit that I thought of this person as a friend for a while so it’s been a very painful experience so far.

I just hope that the legal representation has the desired effect as I know my boss will take this personally and we will lose even more trust from the relationship.

Just one small thought:
What sort of “server issue” takes four months to resolve?

Sounds like a feeble excuse to me.
Unless the firm are very large, any competent networking firm should be able to replace all the cabling in a week, and without losing any single workstation for more than a few minutes. Again, it should only take minutes to replace a file-server or print-server, since all the software can be copied and installed off-line.

Looks like a clumsy attempt to change your place of work from home to office.
Take the advice above.

Geoff

you are being bullied - either you fight back with legal backing or you’re going to be ‘pushed’ out.

I agree with Krakowian, sounds like you are being bullied to get you out. Small company presumably with no active union will be used to and expect to do exactly what they like without any consequences. Get advise from Acas or equality commission.

Its unlikely your boss knows much about the equality act 2010 and their responsibilities so need telling as a first Step.Get the proper advise and use some of the specific terms to get them thinking.

My wife was injured at work and then long term sick leave followed.(the Ms came later) A new manager came in and successfully sacked someone else(without following procedures) and then encouraged by her success came for my wife! I found her in tears after she was asked in for a chat next working day,to discuss dismissal for medical incapability " if you agree we can get it done quickly and without fuss!".

I told her not to go as not required notice etc and wrote email to HR to tell them of procedural breach and that she wouldn’t be going. There was also an issue where Hr told her one thing and manager another so i highlighted this lie and stated due to mistrust all future communication whilst on sick leave to be conducted in writing or email only. After speaking to a union rep friend i got all the relevant procedures from the company

(one at a time,delaying hoping she would get fit and be back) and queried any inconsitencies. After another 6 months they did eventually dismiss but like to think we caused em some problems and they had to work hard. I was making noise about Equality act,direct discrimination etc. and talked of a tribunal but at that time it would have cost over a grand to go to a tribunal so we didn’t.It did cause us both a lot of stress though and may have caused or worsened her Ms so beware and only fight if you need to and its worth it. At the time fighting the bastards bullying my wife seemed 100% the right thing to do,with hindsight maybe not so much.

Try to get evidence of everything said and done,email is very good but also keep a detailed diary and notes of verbal communication etc, if you are bullied out its possible it could be constructive dismissal?

Take care of yourself and good luck

Ollie