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Work related problem - reasonable adjustments, comments please

I’m currently in a really stressful and difficult situation at work and would welcome any opinions, help or suggestions on how not to end up being dismissed from a 12 year career.

I’ve been suffering from various symptoms for the last 2 years or so and am now being investigated for MS.

My symptoms are:

Tingling, numbness, cold/hot sensations, crawling on skin.

Weakness and tremor in left arm/hand.

Headaches.

Eye pain/un-coordinated eye movements.

Sensation of experiencing urinary infection but no infection present.

Extreme bowel urgency.

Due to the above symptoms I have been off work on 7 occasions in the last 12 months and another 2 occasions for other illnesses (one Norovirus - my boss took me home from work in her car because I was that bad and the other occasion I’d had two of my wisdom teeth surgically removed, ended up in serious pain, couldn’t talk, eat or sleep for days).

Two of the 7 absences related to the suspected MS were longer term (approx 8-10 weeks on both occasions) and the others were 1-4 days due to the bowel urgency.

The bowel urgency is the main symptom which really has an adverse affect on my day to day life. I don’t drive and have to take a bus to and from work. The journey each way, including walking to and from the bus stop, is 1 hour 20 minutes. Therefore when the bowel urgency begins I find it very difficult to leave the house for fear of an accident and tend to stay in the house until I am sure it is over.

Due to the amount of absence I have had, I have been taken through the absence policy at work and am now on the last stage.

My employer says I am not covered under the DDA as I am not yet diagnosed and they are no longer willing to wait for a diagnosis.

I was put on the last stage of the absence process in December 2012 and have my final formal absence review on 12th March 2013. I was told that if I was off again in between December and March then it could lead to my dismissal. I have been off twice during this period (once was the Norovirus and the other was 1 day due to the bowel urgency). On the day the bowel urgency began I called my boss and asked if it would be possible to either take a days emergency holiday or work the time back the following week - both of these requests were denied and she put it through as an absence instead. My office is open 69 hours a week and I only work 35 hours so there are plenty additional opening hours for me to be able to slide and change shifts. I felt this was a reasonable adjustment given my circumstances and would be mutually beneficial.

Since then I have spoken with my Union Rep who advised me to ask my boss if it would be possible for me to work extra hours when I am well so that I can take time off as toil when the bowel problems arise. Therefore they would not lose out as I have already worked the hours and I would not be penalised for absence - again this request was denied as she felt it would only serve to mask my absence and if she had to do this for one colleague then she would have to do it for everyone or it wouldn’t be fair.

My boss has only just arranged to have an assessor come in to speak with me about any adjustments they could make with regards to equipment, working arrangements and transport to and from work. The assessor has arranged a meeting with me on 22nd February. Surely given the fact that they are unwilling to make reasonable adjustments and that the assessor is only meeting with me 2 weeks before my final review, they can’t possibly dismiss me in March?

I’ve really got myself worked up about it, which is not helping as my symptoms are flaring up.

Any help/advice/comforting comments would be greatly appreciated x

Hi

That sounds like a right pickle of a situation. Sadly though I’ve not got any great advice to say as it’s not an area I know anything about. The only things I would suggest are to speak again to your union rep about what to do given your boss’srefusal to budge, and also to speak to your loca Citizens Advice Bureau, as they should know more about the whole reasonable adjustments thing.

Sorry I can’t help more, but let us know how you get on.

Dan

First the DDA has been taken over by the Equalities Act. This Act is for anyone whose ability to do their job is affected by a physical or mental ailment that will last longer than 6 months.

So you do come under this Act; see http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/

If your Union Rep. is not pointing out to your company the obvious errors they are making ring the EHRC or ACAS http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461

who will.

Do not consider working extra hours to make up time. This is a ‘reasonable adjustment’ and surely your company MUST implement; you have proved you are not a staff member who leaves the job at a whim but have 12 years service.

I’m sure if it went to your HR they would amend your manager’s intransigence.

George