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MS and work help needed!

Hi there,

First time on this forum and it might be a lengthy post but any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

I started a new job in January (even at the interview, I had to have it scheduled on earlier in the day as I communicated with them that I had an MRI scan in the afternoon.)

About a month into the job I had the Lumber Puncture which because of negative side effects, I got signed off work by the doctors for a month. The results came back saying I had Remitting Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis which I communicated with my employer. They were very understanding saying if I needed to go part time, then this was a possibility and they would make reasonable adjustments to suit me. I did explain that I struggled a lot with fatigue, eye sight and other various things. They seemed supportive of the idea that I might end up having more sick days than the rest of my employees if I had a relapse and they seemed fine.

I do competitive cheerleading in my spare time and I had a competition on one weekend, however on the Sunday afternoon/evening I did have a relapse. This scared me as I experienced a lot of symptoms that I haven’t come across before such as the numbness and heavy feeling in my limbs as well as wobbliness and tremor. Although I got my diagnosis in Feburary, my next neuro appointment isn’t until June so I am on no medication but I decided rest and potentially asking the doctors for some help and advice the next day would be a good idea, as I was pretty scared and quite upset.

I emailed my manager that evening to let him know in advance what had happened and that I wouldn’t be coming to work, but if I had gotten doctors advice/was feeling any better I would aim to be in later in the afternoon. His reply was fine and said to call him once I knew anymore information.

I then got another email a little while later saying that he knew I was away over the weekend so they had therefore lost any trust in me and that I was fired with immediate effect and to not return to the office. Me being away at the competition was never something I hid from work and the Friday in the office, everyone was wishing me luck and I certainly wasn’t trying to lie to them. I felt like they have given me the sack because I was genuinely ill and they found this as an easy excuse to get rid of someone with MS whilst in my probationary period.

I found this unfair also as I work weekdays and I felt that they were trying to tell me because I was a high risk case because of my MS that I shouldn’t be doing hobbies in my spare time and I guess everyone here knows how unpredictable these attacks can be. Maybe I pushed my body too far but I’m still trying to find out my limits in a way, as it has been a very recent diagnosis.

After lots of emails to and from whilst I was trying to explain the situation, I was told I could appeal the decision to the directors of the company. I did appeal the decision, and now the appeal is set to be this Tuesday however, there is no-one senior to my manager who fired me in the company but he has said he’ll go into the appeal with an ‘open mind’.

I feel a little worried that he won’t change his mind as I’m not sure what else I can tell him apart from what I have already said? I’m also not sure what to expect in an appeal meeting and I feel that I may struggle as I am not part of a trade union to have someone accompany me and I don’t feel having a work colleague present would be appropriate as it is a small business with about 10 workers in total. I did ask if I would be allowed to have a family member present to support me but I was told this would not be allowed.

I wonder if anyone would be able to provide any advice on what I could expect, how best to get myself prepared for the appeal and if there are any trade unions that could help me out at last minute notice (all the ones I’ve contacted so far have said I would have to be a member for atleast a month before I could get any help.)

I’ve also been job hunting like crazy and I’ve had a couple of interviews but everytime I am getting asked if I have been fired and if I have any disabilities. It is getting me really down as I feel they unfairly dismissed me previously, but trying to communicate this with potential employers isn’t easy. I feel very stressed and depressed which is making my symptoms a lot worse and I’ve had difficulties even trying to fill in application forms which gets me very wound up. I’ve also tried communicating to the neuro department of my situation and if theres any help I can get in the meantime or if I can get on medication quicker and they simply suggest to phone back every week to see if there has been any cancellations :confused:

Many thanks in advance and apologies for such a long first post!!

Rachel

Hi Rachel,

Very important you get help in this matter as it seems they are being bloody minded and the eventual outcome would be a tribunal for ‘unfair dismissal.’

I suggest you contact DIAL http://www.dialuk.info/ or ACAS http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 or EHRC http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/ Any of these organisations will help Union or not.

George

Hello and welcome Rachel :slight_smile: My first thought was, “Are you in the UK?” I ask this because the UK has The Equality Act which makes it illegal to ask people at interview about their medical history. If you are in the UK, your employer is on VERY dodgy ground. An MS attack can happen at any point, full stop. Whether or not you were away has absolutely no bearing on this situation whatsoever. They clearly believe that you used your MS to take a sickie however which IS a sackable offence, so if you can demonstrate that 1) you were home from the event and 2) you called your GP, MS nurse or neuro’s secretary for advice, then they have no grounds to fire you. I am not a lawyer though and you need to get proper advice and support for your meeting (which I believe you can postpone to a time when you can have someone with you, but do check). I hope you will call the people George suggested. As far as your possible relapse goes, if your symptoms improved, it will almost certainly have been a “pseudo-relapse” brought on by overdoing it at your competition. Over exertion, dehydration, fatigue and getting too hot can cause pseudo-relapses that feel just like the real thing, but go once the triggers go. If this has never happened to you, then you weren’t to know that it was a possibility so your taking time off to get advice was entirely reasonable. (In future, make sure not to overdo things when you’re competing - lots of fluids, keep cool and take plenty of breaks - and maybe take the Monday off as a precaution, until you learn better what you can and can’t get away with.) Good luck. Karen x

I would not expect much if i were you. It may seem harsh but you have a trial period in any job and i expect this is what they will use during the appeal. Regardless of that, what a shabby way to treat an employee

My guess is that the second email you got from your boss that Sunday evening was a shooting from the hip ‘Oh FFS!’ response from someone who had maybe spent too much of his weekend looking at work emails and maybe was starting to feel a bit morose as that extra glass of red with lunch was starting to wear off. In short, he was in a bad mood and not feeling inclined to charity when he found that an employee who had been well enough to spend a weekend away cheerleading would, apparently, not be well enough to turn up for work the next day. In other words, he thought you were taking the p and responded accordingly.

But your other dealings with him seem to indicate that he is a decent bloke and inclined to be co-operative and understanding. So it may well be that a face-to-face meeting will be the opportunity you need to iron out a genuine misunderstanding here. So don’t despair: a face-to-face is worth a whole sheaf of emails. Just stay calm and reasonable and explain what happened, how you think a misunderstanding about your attitude might have arisen and how you want to set matters straight.

I hope it goes well for you.

Alison

Oh, and I would second what Karen said about exertion bringing on a temporary worsening of symptoms. I want away for a spa trip with the girls when I was newly dx and spent some time in the gym, having not been in one for years. That evening I was tingling dramatically from the neck down for hours and really thought I had done myself a mischief, but I hadn’t and was fine the next day. Happens to us all, and it is, as you say yourself, all part of the process of getting accustomed.

A

x

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this and reply :slight_smile:

George those links were really helpful but especially ACAS who gave me some pointers in what I should expect in an appeal meeting. Thanks so much for linking me :slight_smile: very helpful!

That “pseudo-relapse” you mention Karen is the first time I’ve heard of that so that’s incredibly useful that I know that! I’ve gotten together bits and pieces that can prove I was back at home and I’ve gotten in touch with my GP again to try to get them to push forward my appointment with the neurologist but it’s still all in progress and I feel like I hassle them regulary so I will have to carry on I guess! You’re also not the first to comment on the UK legality of asking about disabilities in interviews, although saying ‘that’s not a legal thing to be asking me’ (or worded smarter!) is then obviously going to raise suspicion so it’s a tricky one!

Alison I am really hoping that a face to face approach may solve things as I think he may understand hearing it in person but like previous posts have mentioned, I’m definitely not expecting a great deal. At the end of the day, I have nothing to lose by going along and telling him my side of the story as there’s not a lot that could be worse than being fired which I already have been :confused: It’s all bad timing and I wish I felt confident but I’ve just got to keep my fingers crossed that he might reinstate me, or atleast give me a good reference for future job hunting.

Thanks for all your help everyone and I’ll be sure to keep you posted, if I ever get to sleep tonight! :confused:

Rachel

Good luck for today.

A

x

Thanks Alison :slight_smile:

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, he was just trying to get a day by day hour by hour report of my weekend but he’s going to let me know within 2-3 weeks which is a bit of a long wait :confused: Not sure of what the outcome will be!

Thanks for everyones support and advice, really helpful and kind!

Rachel