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Work induced stress - sick leave and how to cope

number08
number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
edited January 2021 in Work and employment
Hi Everyone

My first post so as well as saying "Hi" I was looking for some advice if possible please.

I think that I have finally cracked up now and have gone off work with a stress induced relapse to my medical condition. My problems started with my employer 2 years ago when my old manager retired and his replacement was brought in. To cut a long story short the new manager hasn't got a clue how our type of work fits into the business and really hasn't a clue about people welfare, etc. We think he was brought in to wind down the departments he is in charge of.
I have worked with my company for over 25 years and have never had an issue with my work capability or performance, etc. It has been getting harder over the last 18 months as my manager seems to keep dumping extra duties and responsibilities on me along with my own work. No one else gets given the extra duties, its just me. Over the last couple of years we have had a couple of guys made redundant in the company and on each occasion I have been chosen to pick up their workload and slack with no formal training or "mentoring" on the job, as well as carrying out my own "normal" duties. 

The whole stressful situation for me came about four weeks ago when I was told that one of the members of my team was himself being made redundant as part of a Covid-19 restructuring program, basically just an exercise to reduce dead wood and save money. I was dreading this as it was going to make my team even smaller (it was reduced in size a couple of years ago and we've had to pick up the workload and stress since) and that another department, was going to be shutdown completely.
The other department had four employees in who to be fair had a constant stream of work repairing complex electrical devices. I was told informally during a telephone call that I was going to be expected to "learn the role" of this now removed department and perform their duties, starting in a few weeks time, when we return to work and come out of lock down. My current duties are going to be given to another member of my team so that I could focus on the new work. There won't be any cross training for the work as there are no members of staff left to give me any training or advice.
The issue I have is that the work which the department were doing was very technical. They were repairing electrical equipment and replacing electrical circuit boards etc. Which I have no real experience of or have had no relevant training in the area. At the time I was told that I was being lined up for the work, I was careful as not to refuse to perform such actions, but did state that I would struggle with the work and also that it was a direction that I would not want to follow as my chosen career path and would never look at applying for such a position. I had to be careful as in my job description I have a line it which reads something like "the company can on its discretion change elements of your role if it helps the company out" or something to those words. I also explained that I may not be able to carry out the work due to the nature of my disability and how it affects the use of my hands. I am unable to hold a screwdriver, tool, pen etc, for very long as I don't have the dexterity fully to do so. In fact, if I have to use a pen to write then my writing is pretty much ineligible but I rarely do use a pen in my current job and use a keyboard without any issues. 

For the last 20 years I have performed (successfully) fairly much the same role. I am very worried that over the last few years, my manager has tried to push me out of the door by giving me extra work to do and generally making my life a misery. He is aware of my disability but makes no effort to talk about it and even had the cheek to ask me what that "illness" was which I suffered with when I phoned up to call in sick a couple of weeks ago. The illness I suffer from is one of the protected disabilities under the disability act, but I don't want to say in case others are reading this from work.
I am well suffering from anxiety with the thought of trying to do some work without a clue of what I am supposed to do and fear that I will be dismissed from my role due to either lack of performance and ultimately capability. I really do not know what to do as talking to my manager will get me nowhere, as it is his idea that I carry out the work. 

Any advice which anyone who has been in a similar situation would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks and apologies for the long post.

P.S. The company I work for has some sort of insurance policy (UNUM?) which covers sick periods after a certain amount of time, so not sure whether to just try to keep out on the sick until/ if my mental health returns. (Although, I want to go to work and I want my "normal" job back)


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Comments

  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi and welcome to the community, I have a degree in Human Resources and employment law and practised for many years prior to becoming disabled.

    Your situation sounds quite complex and that you are being asked to do a job you are not trained to do. Have you seen a copy of the job description and job specification if not ask for it as this should state any experience or qualifications required.

    What has your doctor signed you off with is it due to your disability or work related stress ?

    Do you have a union rep ?

    I would think about putting in a formal grievance following the company policy relating to grievance procedure as your concerns have not  been addressed by your manager.
     
    You could also contact ACAS 0300 123 1100 who are free advice service dealing with all aspects of employment
  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    Hi Janer1967

    Thank you very much for replying, its much appreciated. 

    Firstly I am not in a union and as far as I know nobody else at work is. 

    I have not seen a copy of the job description as there is no such job to go into as the roles of the guys in the department were made redundant. I have been told that I would have to pick up the workload to cover existing orders/ contracts. It made no sense making the members of this department redundant as it was and is a fully functioning product which we sell/ support.

    I had a flare up of my condition and it has been put on the sick note as being that. It doesn't mention stress or anxiety at the moment but my next note might say anxiety if I need it too.  I didn't want to tell the doctor it was down to stress from work etc as 5 months ago I saw the doctor with stress to get some anti depressants and she played it down and made me feel useless and weak. It's only now that I have gone back and reported that I am having dark thoughts that she is now concerned.

    The other thing in relation to my role and this situation is that for 25 years my role has been a customer facing one working on client sites. I replenish supplies in the machines we sell, so is sort of the service sector. The place where my company offices are located are fairly local to me, but I rarely visit the offices as I am nearly always out and about. 

    I had an issue about 8 months ago with a colleague who I wanted to report for harassment but when I reported it to my manager, he played it down and said that he would have a word with the person but I don't feel that he ever did. Since that incident I have been left out of team meetings, training, development opportunities, etc by the person who I had a complaint against. I wish i went to our HR department but as I have never had any dealings with them, I never did, I was always told keep your head down and out of trouble.

    I did speak with ACAS about a week ago, but the lady on the phone basically said that the clause in my contract would mean that my employer could ask me to do any work they wanted.

    The big thing I have got is that I do feel like I am being forced out of my current job. The bug bear however is that I have received very little or no support to help me with my disability. It has almost been swept under the carpet. My employer knows about my condition as I had to report it as I drive a company vehicle. I think that I am being removed from a field based role, due to my disability, as I am probably seen as a high risk for somebody travelling around. I have had no assessment done ever, so how they can presume that I don't know. That must add up to discrimination in itself.

    Once again thank you

  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi again

    They may not have a job description but they should and you have a right to ask for it and if it is a new role they should do a new one, or adjust the old one. By requesting it will make them think at least about what they are asking.

    In relation to the harassment you can still raise a complaint as being excluded is also a form of harassment and I strongly advise you see your HR department and ask for a copy of the grievance procedure a copy of your job description and also ask for a referral to Occupational Health for an assessment to ensure any recommended adjustments are put in place.

    What ACAS said is correct but not if the job spec states a required qualification in order to complete the job as this is a basic requirement and all job specs should include essential requirements and desired requirements.

    It doesn't really matter the reason for sickness but with some companies their policy is to refer to OH if the reason for .sickness is work related stress

    This is all a lot to deal with I know but you also have to follow your own companies policy for grievances and once this has been exhausted and no resolution would you be able to take it further.

    Your HR department are there to assist you and try and get a resolution for both parties
  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    HI

    Thanks for the further  info :)

    I was off for four weeks previous with stress related to an incident over 3 years ago with an issue with the death of my Father. I was hoping then to get a return to work interview carried out but I never got anything at all! Just made to book it off on the system as being stress and heard no more.

    This really is a shoddy company nowadays and i'm starting to come to terms with needing to be out of there for my own mental well being. If i was financially well off then I would be gone, but my mental health has suffered so badly in the last couple of years I doubt if I could even face an interview nowadays. 
    I feel that this is the final push now by my manager to get me gone. I think I will have to go back to the doctor and have a further discussion ref my anxiety and negative thoughts and possibly get signed off for longer. On my return ask for a staged return and get the doctor to tick the box for a OT referral. 



  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Ok if that is what you decide you can request a Oh referral yourself but going through your gp is ok as well 

    You are probably not in a position to deal with all this at present so concentrate on getting yourself better first 
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,545 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @number08 and a very warm welcome to the community! I'm not surprised your health has worsened due to stress, it sounds like it's been really tough! 

    I'm glad @janer1967 has been able to provide you with some advice. Also, you are entitled to reasonable adjustments, do you have anything in place for your current role?

    Please let us know how you get on and if there is anything else we can do to help. :)
    Scope

  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    @Chloe_Scope

    Hi
    I will be asking for reasonable adjustments when I ask for the OH assessment. Trouble is I don't actually need any reasonable adjustments to do my current role but will be having to ask for them if they change the nature of the current job as I wont be able to carry out the "additional work" if they change it. It stinks and feels like constructive dismissal and discrimination somewhere along the line. Seems ridiculous to me but it's extra stress I don't need, that's for sure.

     
  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    p.s. I have no reasonable adjustments in place as i've never asked for them, however, I believe that with having MS then my employer is obliged to acknowledge my request for them?
  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Yes they are obliged to acknowledge your request for reasonable adjustments however they only have to put them in place if they are practical 
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,545 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @number08, yes your employer has to accept the request, otherwise it's discrimination. The only grey area is what counts as 'reasonable'. 

    Here are some articles that might help:
    Please do let us know if there is anything else we can do, you don't need to do this by yourself. :) 
    Scope

  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    Thank you for the links, i'll take a look later.

    I still can't understand though why I need to ask for a reasonable adjustment for my employer to dramatically change my job function. Surely, a reasonable adjustment would be to ask to be able to work from home now and again and not being forced to work in a permanent location. Being moved from a field based role, where I work from home into a permanent location in the office is different to my role which I have done for 25 years.
    Then singling me out from four other field based employees forcing me to try to repair complex electrical equipment without any knowledge or training is simply ridiculous and downright unfair. I am the disabled one here after all, all the other guys could carry out the additional duties. It stinks



  • Adrian_Scope
    Adrian_Scope Posts: 8,578 Scope online community team
    Hi @Number8. That doesn't sound like a fair or sustainable situation, so I hope some of the advice above proves useful to you.
    If it comes to it and you think it might be time to move on, we do have a range of free employment services here at Scope that might help.
    Community Manager
    Scope

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  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    Hi Everyone, sorry to bump this thread but I now require some further advice.
    I decided to return to work back last July after taking advice from various places and hoping that things would sort itself out. Before I returned to work I raised a case with out HR department to discuss a request for reasonable adjustments. I wanted to speak with someone about having a phased return to work as I had had a recent relapse in my condition, hence the reason for being out sick.
    To cut a long story short, on my day of return I was pretty much set upon by different managers in different business areas asking me what I was going to do with various tasks for them in the new areas where I was now going to work, jobs which I had no experience in or in reality I was able to do. As you can imagine it was pretty nerve wrecking especially after I was returning to work after a illness period from stress amongst other things.
    I contacted HR and my manager and  the company decided that as my job description states that from time to time they could ask me to do other activities outside of my normal role, I had no choice but to do the work. After an initial meeting with HR and my manager, it was decided that they wanted me to have an OH assessment to "understand my condition". Previously on my return to work my manager was trying to discipline me for being off from work for a "considerable amount of time" (4 weeks! with sick notes) He told me that because of my condition the company was very concerned about my fatigue as because I have MS then I must suffer from fatigue. After a big argument I accused him of generalising against me and my condition and that he didn't know what he was on about. I don't suffer from fatigue on the whole, he was trying to state symptoms of a condition, which he had read from a book therefore everyone who has MS suffers from fatigue and therefore so must I. Unfortunatley that was his view and he wasn't changing. So moving forward a few days HR got involved as a "Intermediate" to help and try to diffuse the situation between myself and my manager it was decided that I have a meeting with a third party OH. 
    To cut a long story short I had the meeting (telephone call) with OH and was emailed a report which they had sent to my company about the meeting. To this day I have heard nothing back from my company whatsoever in response to the OH findings. The meeting with the OH didn't seem to be about "how and what I needed to continue in my job" but more to find out what issues I had which might prevent me from doing my job. In fact the interviewer was more interested in if I could hold my bowel more than anything else.
    The meeting took place in October and as I say I have heard nothing back from manager or HR to discuss the outcome. I have been waiting for them to contact me as they were the ones who requested the meeting.
    The original support case which I logged with the HR department has been closed and there is no record of any detail of an outcome for my request for reasonable adjustments. 
    What should my next step be? Has my company now discriminated against me for failing to act properly for my request of the reasonable adjustment? I personally feel that the comments reference the fatigue from my manager was discrimination on its own.
    Thanks for any advice, the situation with my employment now is dire and I am now finding myself being ostracised, covertly being verbally abused via other managers in the company if my manager is part of the email trail...... the list goes on. I don't really know what to do now as HR don't seem to be a resource for me to go to for assistance or advice.
    Thanks

  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @number08

    First of all sorry you are in this situation 

    Did the oh make any recommendations for adjustments? If so write to your manager and hr with a copy of the report requesting reasonable adjustments as part of equality act , if nothing is done take it to someone who is in charge of your manage

    Verbal abuse needs to be reported and a complaint made 

    If your job role has changed and it is likely to continue ask for your role to be re evaluated and new tasks included and to br regraded 

    You can get expert advice from ACAS on all employment related issues 


  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    Thanks @janer1967 the OH did make a couple of recommendations, real weird one about how I would benefit from my colleagues educating themselves about my condition! and one for a phased return to work following sickness due to my MS because of the potential of fatigue if I was going to be driving anywhere.

    The guy in charge of my manager is aware of the situation as HR made him aware, however, he has not done anything about the situation. In fact he told a colleague yesterday, who kindly pointed out to him that as I had been helping (my colleague) and it wasn't actually my job, that it was unfair because I still had my own old duties to do. He basically told my colleague that "he (I) would do as the business dictates"........ Great!

    My role (title) hasn't actually changed as of yet. I keep on making a point of saying that I am "assisting" the other department. One of my friends at work who did a similar role as me passed away recently due to Covid-19 and I was given his workload to continue with as well. Therefore I now have twice the amount of work in what I would call my "normal job" and additional work in a different department. 

    I did contact ACAS but they said that until discrimination was committed then I either sort out my issue via HR (which I have tried and failed) keep on working, or leave.


  • janer1967
    janer1967 Member Posts: 16,405 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi again 

    All you can do Is put everything in writing as a complaint and see what happens 

    I'm not saying its right but a lot of people are doing more than normal in their work currently due to reduced staffing and the need to keep business operating 

    Is there anyone higher up in the company you can go to 




  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    Hi 

    Apologies for not coming back on this thread sooner but I have had some family issues to deal with since my last post and also the passing of a couple of close friends and I have really not been up to dealing with what has been going on in my workplace.

    Things have not got any better for me at work, I have managed to get through the pandemic and I still have a job but I now have another problem which I have to deal with. Recently the company has made mass redundancies and have reduced the head count from 200 people to about 45. For those of us left, we now have to pick up the workload of ex employees and quite unbelievably I have been promoted to a senior manager position, To say that I am shocked is an under statement. I was given no consultation about this and my manager actually changed my job title 2 months ago. It was only last week that I found this out and I only knew that this was the case because I noticed a slight rise on my wage slip. 

    When I called my manager to speak with him, he briefly said that all that was changing was that I was taking on was a couple of additional employees to carry out appraisals periodically. He then went off on annual leave and was uncontactable. Since he has been off I have received an email with a change of Job title letter which I am being asked to sign and return back to my HR department. I am also receiving calls from others asking me what I am going to do about the "failing" department which the other employees work for. I feel completely out of my depth at the moment and fear that I am being unfairly lined up by my manager and set up to fail. I would no way ever ever apply for a job as a manager as I simply cannot handle the stress and pressure which a role like this holds. I have MS and the number one cause of my health to deteriorate is caused by stress. 

    I received a meeting request last week to attend a meeting to discuss "roles and responsibilities" I presume for this new job title which I suddenly appear to have. Surely this meeting should have been carried out previous to the change of job title over 2 months ago? 

    My mental health is being affected once again by these changes and I fear that I will get ill again soon if I can't sort this out. If anybody could offer any advice form a HR background around this change of job title that would be great. I know that it looks like I will have to find another job but I don't want to leave until I have another job. Have I got grounds for constructive or unfair dismissal here?

    Thanks in advance

     
  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    hi mikehughescq

    Yes I and others are working in fear, it's how this company treats people I am afraid. In the recent bout of redundancies they have got rid of 2 disabled people who thankfully went with a bit of a pay out. I often discussed my issues with them and they were scared to say anything at all about the way they were treated. They just said to me keep your head down and hope you don't get picked on. The sad thing is one of the guys was black and where he worked people used to hang Gollywog dolls in his work area. I always was able to take them down and destroy them before he saw them. I wasn't strong enough to report the racism as nobody would back me up and I feared that I would be fired.

    I asked for a reasonable adjustment of a phased return to work should I go out with anything relating to my MS but luckily I have not had an issue since. I did ask to be able to continue to work from home a couple days a week my in my OH assessment but the assessor did not put that down in the report.

    I am trying to look after myself and trying to cope better generally but this latest whammy is proving to be tough.
    Thanks
  • number08
    number08 Member Posts: 12 Connected
    I'm scared of losing my job and my home if I get sacked and unable to get further employment straight away, so yes you are right.  Also, I have been holding out for redundancy which looks like is not going to be coming my way and may need to look at some form of dismissal. Other managers in the business who I've mentioned my situation to have all simply said if you don't like the new role then leave. Problem is these managers are in the "clique" with my manager and in on the whole thing.

    What I have been facing is bullying/ discrimination and I need to get advice on sorting it out and who to go to for help.
  • Reg
    Reg Member Posts: 109 Pioneering
    Hello @number08

    I think it may be tough to read but I suspect that what @mikehughescq says is right.

    I had a couple of thoughts. Does your employer have a disability policy or a harassment policy? If they do then you should down load those as well as their grievance policy. You will need those if you want to take things further with your employer , either on your own or with the help of a solicitor.

    My other thought is that the set up sounds toxic and unhealthy for you. I understand you don't want to leave without another job so have you thought about seeing a careers advisor or talking to a recruitment agency ? They may give you the confidence to see that your skills are transferable and to apply for other jobs . Appreciate you may have pension concerns if you have been with your employer a long time but those could be addressed. 

    I left a career I had been in for over 20 years as I was not allowed to go part time or work from home ( ironic as they work from home now) but found , to my surprise, that there were other opportunities out there that I had not considered whilst so exhausted by the daily commute and trying to keep up in the work environment .

    Whatever you decide to do I wish you the best of luck 

    Reg

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