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If my employment is terminated on medical grounds, will my benefits be affected?

JayJay62JayJay62 Member Posts: 4 Listener
edited March 2018 in Ask an employment adviser
Hi all.
This is my first post to the group and I could really use some advice. I suffer from a number of minor ailments: Ménière's disease, asthma, eczema, IBS, and perhaps most significant to me, hearing loss. 

I'm 56 and at the moment working 8 hours a week, and getting Universal Credit, in a fast paced, busy cafe with lots of background noise, which needless to say isn't the best environment for my hearing loss. I make a fair few mistakes and my confidence is at rock bottom.

In October last year, after working a lot of overtime when two of our junior staff went off to university, I began to suffer severe pain in my right foot. At first I just tried to live with it, I've had painful feet and ankles from being on my feet for long periods ever since I started that job in November 2016. But it got so bad I could hardly walk, so I went to my GP, who took one look and sent me off for an x-ray. It turned out I had a metatarsal stress fracture, and also have osteoporosis. I was signed off for 8 weeks, due to go back to work just before Christmas. However, my manager and deputy manager at work discouraged me from returning during such a busy period, particularly as I was still limping pretty badly. So I went back to my doctor and he signed me off again.

I eventually returned to work 3 weeks ago, on a phased return. I am still struggling to be on my feet for so long. After just an hour, I'm limping and in pain, plus I'm very slow and finding it difficult to keep up with the fast pace of the cafe, my colleagues are constantly getting irritated with me. Add that to the irritation they show when I can't hear them, and basically my confidence has fallen even further. My deputy manager last week suggested I resign. But of course if I resign I'm looking at a long sanction from the job centre. 

I got home home from work the other day to discover Universal Credit had sent me a UC50 form. I was so shocked, I had no idea why I had received this, didn't even know what it was, but on doing some research, I've discovered it should have been sent to me a lot earlier - I was off sick for 16 weeks, then a week's holiday, then two weeks back at work, a total of 19 weeks! As for the UC35, telling me about it, I never received that at all. 

I should explain; although I'm getting Universal Credit, I don't need to go to the job centre to sign on for it as I've apparently been in work long enough for them to trust me now. So I had no job centre advice to fall back on, I don't have a work coach any more.

Then today, my manager texted me - I haven't been working today - to tell me that if I can get another sick note from my GP, basically go off sick again, the company can finish me on medical grounds in the middle of April. The cafe is a store cafe and the store is a major nationwide employer.

The advice I need is this: if my employment is terminated on medical grounds, will my benefits be affected? And how will this affect my WCA? Would it be better to just accept I'm not fit for the job and let them dismiss me or keep going so that at least I don't lose any benefits and hope my foot gets better? I've had some experience of the WCA before, regarding my hearing loss and scored just 2 points, so I don't expect to be given limited capability for work. I am quite capable of working, just not at that job, or any job where I'm constantly on my feet at the moment. I was doing voluntary work before I was press-ganged into this job (a long story) and would like to go back to that, but after this experience, I'm kind of afraid of being forced into yet another job that's unsuitable. 

I would really appreciate any advice regarding my benefits. I'm on my own and would definitely not survive a sanction. 

Thanks for reading. 

Replies

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 Pioneering
    Hi JayJay62

    I am so sorry to read about your difficulties. So often, people want to work in spite of the difficulties of a particular job, but the job or a combination of the job and the people in the workplace, is or are, just unsustainable. 

    It's understandable that you're afraid of a sanction. However the law says that if you leave your job voluntarily and without a good reason, then that is when they can legitimately place a sanction of you. If you had a good reason for leaving, then there should be no sanction. 

    Therefore, you could protect yourself to a degree by getting some medical evidence  - maybe from the GP  - that says that the job is proving detrimental to your health. 

    If you can, produce evidence that shows that handing in your notice is the only thing you can do in all the circumstances. Further proof would be your going to your manager and ask for reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate your long-standing and your current disability (I mean your hearing impairment and your current foot injury).  Perhaps waiting less tables, in acknowledgement of your lack of walking pace at present might be an option. 

    I really wish I could give some sort of guarantee that these ideas will be enough, but as you seem already to be aware, sometime, it seems that unreasonable decisions are sometimes by the DWP and have to be challenged.  

    Do you have a local advice agency that might help if this does go further?

    Have a look at:
    www.advicelocal.uk.

    I hope this helps a little

    [email protected]

  • JayJay62JayJay62 Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Thanks Gill,
    My manager has already made as many adjustments as she can, really. I have a badge that says I'm hard of hearing and asking that people face me so I can lip read them - not that many customers take much notice, but still . . . . The chefs have a bell they ring when there is food or drinks to be run, which I can't hear. They were looking into getting me a buzzer that I could clip to my apron, but when I'm doing pot wash my apron gets pretty wet sometimes so it could have been risky and area management said no. There are already adjustments in place regarding my foot injury, I have a chair I can sit on to take micro breaks in the office, but when it's busy I can't really leave customers or food waiting as the other staff get shirty with me - and it is busy most of the time!

    I am seeing my GP next week and I'm pretty sure he will write me something saying that the job is putting me at risk. However, I won't actually be resigning, my manager has spoken to Occupational Health and they have agreed that as I'm struggling so much, even with the adjustments in place, I can be finished on medical grounds after 27 weeks off sick if there is no possibility of me being able to continue in the job. They will terminate the employment, not me, as long as I can get another sick note from my GP. I was off for 16 weeks and have been back for 3 weeks on phased return, which they are not counting as a break, it will be continuous sick leave. 

    So I may be lucky and not get a sanction. I'll just have to hope the Decision Makers are in a good mood at the time! I'm thinking of calling into the job centre on Monday to ask for advice, maybe ask to see the Disabilities Adviser. When I was going to the job centre to sign on, I always found the work coaches helpful, it was quite a positive experience. My foot has been very painful today, so it will be obvious I'm having trouble if I'm still limping. I might try going to Citizen's Advice as well, see what they say. 

    You have actually been more reassuring than you know, at least now I know I have a chance of proving there is good reason for having my employment terminated. I'm also thinking of moving nearer to my mother, out of the area I currently live in. I know if I do get a sanction, it will apply wherever I'm living, but at least if I'm near my mother I can look after her - she's nearly 80 - and I won't be so alone. 

    Thanks for your advice, much appreciated. 
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering
    edited March 2018
    JayJay62JayJay62,

    I would advise you to fill in the UC50 as comprehensively as you can. You're in a difficult situation because it sounds as if at the moment you're working enough for UC to leave you alone. I'm not sure if you are in fact earning enough to have no work-related requirements (this depends on your earnings, not your hours), but it sounds as if your work coach must have agreed that, given your health condition and ongoing fit notes, you are currently doing all that should be expected.

    If your job finishes through no fault of your own, then no, you should not be sanctioned. It will actually be clearer if you are dismissed on medical grounds, so the outcome you describe in your last post is probably the best outcome. That would mean you didn't lose your job through any fault of your own. You might want to talk to your employer about what they would say if the Jobcentre asked them for their side of the story, so you can be completely consistent with what you say. Obviously medical evidence will help enormously, as Gill says.

    I'm not an employment adviser but it does sound as if your employer has made lots of adjustments. Unless they gave you an entirely different role, which may not exist, it's hard to see what else they could do.

    Whilst I don't think you will be sanctioned, I am worried that you think you won't pass the WCA again. This might be a good thing to get some advice on. Because you are only working 8 hours a week, as long as you are not earning more than 16 x min wage (16 per week, but converted to a monthly amount for UC), the DWP can send you to a WCA even if you are working (ie before your work finishes). So I would definitely complete the UC50, go along to a WCA etc whatever else you do.

    You are quite right that the UC35 should have been sent, and the UC50 should have been sent out after 28 days of your sick notes, so you could complain about that as it means it will take longer to sort out your situation.

    I'd have a look at the ESA self-test and think about whether you would get 15 points. Also bear in mind that if work is a risk to health, and the risk is substantial, you can also get ESA that way.

    If you are dismissed on medical grounds as discussed above, then there are different scenarios after that:

    1) you shouldn't be sanctioned, but if you do not pass the WCA (and before you get the decision on that) you may have to look for other work. You should talk to your work coach about what is safe for you to do - clearly nothing on your feet, and nothing in a noisy environment. It would be a breach of the Equality Act 2010 to push you into work which is going to make your health worse, so if you happen to get a less helpful work coach, remember that there is lots of guidance about restricting people's work search based on health conditions, so you could ask them to allow you restrictions which you can cope with and which won't make you worse.

    2) you do pass the WCA, but you are put in the work-related activity group. In this group, you don't have to look for paid work but you do have to take part in activity which helps prepare you for work, such as training. You might be able to suggest that you do some voluntary work, as you found that helpful before - a lot will depend on how understanding your work coach is. Or, you can work if you want to, as long as you are earning less than 16 x minimum wage (again per week but converted to a monthly amount for UC), but you shouldn't be pushed into this (you'd get a work allowance which ignores some of your earnings for UC, making work more worthwhile than it is now). Again, if work-related activity poses a risk to your health, you should ask for something different, and if nothing safe can be found, you should be in the support group....

    3) if you are placed in the support group following the WCA, then you do not have to do anything for as long as you are in that group. If you nevertheless wanted to work, you can do, and you would get a work allowance (meaning the earnings would affect your UC more slowly than they do now). But you should avoid earning 16 x minimum wage or more (on a weekly basis, but converted to a monthly amount) unless you also get PIP or DLA.

    Unfortunately working whilst you have limited capability for work can sometimes to the DWP re-assessing you, so it's something only to do with caution.

    On that note, have you thought about PIP? It sounds like some activities in the home must be hard for you too, as well as moving around. Have a look at the self-test and maybe think about applying for that, although it does mean another medical.

    Finally, you mention moving and living near your mother. Is your mother on attendance allowance or DLA? If she is, that might give you other options - of caring for her, getting carer's allowance, and then your UC could reflect the fact that you are a carer, and you wouldn't have to do anything. You could work if you wanted to, up to carer's allowance levels (£116 a week at the moment, £120 from April). If the area she lives in isn't a UC area, you might even be able to come off UC and claim Income Support as a carer. You'd need to be caring for 35 hours a week, and your mum would need to be on attendance allowance or DLA mid or high rate care component.

    There's a lot of advice here, but I honestly think it sounds as if you will be all right, and at least, that you definitely shouldn't be sanctioned. As for the WCA, do let us know how that turns out.

    Will


    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
  • JayJay62JayJay62 Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Wow! Loads of advice - thanks, Will, very much appreciated. According to the ESA self-test, I do just scrape in, although I do know that the assessors can have very different opinions. I may make PIP this time, though. I am pretty aware of this test, and also quite a bit of DWP-related information, as I belong to a couple of benefit and WCA-related groups on Facebook. I did ask on there at first, but nobody could agree on whether or not I would be sanctioned. I've had to call in sick at work again anyway, my foot is really sore, no way could I manage even a short shift, and I was due to go back on normal shifts at the end of this week. Not going to happen!
    Yes, my mother does get Attendance Allowance, and my brother, who lives nearby, is her carer. Not sure whether it would work for me, whether her having two carers is allowed. My brother works part time, though, and of course it might be more realistic for her to have a female carer, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. At the moment I'm more concerned with getting this sick note in, being finished at work on medical grounds without incurring a sanction and filling in this darned WCA form. As far as that goes, I'm fairly optimistic about my chances even if I do end up having to look for more work, as the staff at my job centre do seem to be pretty helpful. It was the work programme staff who were aggressive and pushy. Basically, for my first 6 months on the work programme, I was a model claimant, told that I'm very pro-active about my job search (true, I am), that my CV is textbook, my interview technique spot on, I'm doing all and more that could be expected of me and there was no need to send me on any courses. I'd already done two work experience stints for the job centre, done voluntary work, gone on every course they suggested. Then overnight, they changed towards me. I "should have found a job by now". Was I filling in all the questions on some application forms properly? In short, they began to bully me, for absolutely no reason. After about 3 weeks of this, I got a call from them out of the blue, saying they'd found me a job and I was to come in for an interview. I protested when they said it was in a cafe, partly as I had no experience of working in a cafe and partly as I knew the background noise would hamper me. They said if I didn't take this job, they would refer me for a sanction. It was coming up to Christmas and I couldn't afford to be sanctioned. They had told the cafe manager I had a "slight" hearing problem. My hearing problem is a little bit more than slight! So I was bullied into taking an unsuitable job, which I have struggled with from day one. It was unfair to me and unfair to my colleagues, but never mind, at least the work programme got their bonus for getting me into work in time for Christmas! They continued to call me even after I started work, asking if I was still working, and I caused them consternation when I went off sick with my foot! They began calling me every week after that to find out if I was back at work. I have yet to meet anyone who had a good experience with the work programme! 
    However, your advice on my current problem is extremely welcome, and I'll be sure to let you know how the WCA goes. It doesn't have to be in until 5 April, so I'll take the time to make sure I fill it in thoroughly. Fingers crossed! 
    Many thanks,
    Janet


  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 Pioneering
    Hi Janet
    Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, though I had seen that Will had written to you.  Now I just want to say how sorry I am to read about this horrible treatment by the work programme, putting you in an impossible situation. 

    You have very good cause for complaint against the work programme, though I can see that you might not want to "make yourself look like a trouble-maker". It is so hard to steer a safe course through all of these processes, impossible really.

    In case you wan to complain and then escalate the complaint, you could look at the following,
    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/complaints-procedure


    Or another option would be to  contact your MP - MPs need to know the poor quality of and lack of accountability of the services that are available for disabled work-seekers.

    Do let us know how you are getting on.  

    Very best wishes

    Gill_Scope. 



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