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To appeal this? (Work related - migraines & disciplinary)

(78 Posts)
carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 17:23:17

Hi - I've posted this over on employment but it seems to be quiet over there. Advice needed - thanks in advance.

here before about my migraines but things have escalated since then.

I've had migraines for 15 years and for the past 3.5 years have had to take daily preventative meds due to the number of attacks I get. For most of the time since starting the medication I have had them reasonably well controlled (3-4 a year).

I started a job just over 12 months ago which I do find quite stressful. Since I started the job I have had 8 incidents of sickness, 7 which were for migraine. Additionally 4 of those were over the course of a week period where I had kept trying to return to work and having more attacks, until at the finish my GP wrote a sick note and insisted I stay off work. During this cluster I suffered 8 migraines within a fortnight. This was three months ago; at the time I was invited to a formal meeting and we discussed my absences and no formal action was taken against me.

A couple of weeks ago I had another migraine - again I returned to work and again I had another attack which again resulted in two separate instances of sickness of a day each. My GP advised me to stay off and wrote another sick note for 2 weeks. I showed this to work but returned with agreement from my manager I should return as I had leave this week so could use that to recuperate.

I had to have a formal meeting and was issued with a first written warning. I'm worried sick; I can't control my migraines, I return to work as soon as I can every time I've had an attack and have used annual leave more than once to recuperate. I don't know what to do - in this position two more migraines and I could be sacked. Even typing it out now I am getting distressed and am in tears. Can they do this? Migraines were something I declared when I started working there. I have been as committed to work as I can be, any other sickness I power through because I know I can't afford it in case I get a migraine.

I am thinking of appealing the warning but worry this will give me a reputation of a trouble maker. I appreciate it is a business and they can only do so much in terms of support. However at my last meeting I expressed concerns that these attacks are not something I can control and was reassured if they continued work could look at reasonable adjustments. This was not mentioned this time and I didn't even question it I was so upset and shocked.

I just don't know what to do sad please help.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 17:23:53

Bad copy and paste job - I've posted here before about my migraines the first bit should say!

Tiggeryoubastard Thu 30-Jun-16 17:31:31

I sympathise, migraines are terrible. But yes, they can do this, it's a hell of a lot of instances off, even if you count the cluster as one instance. In most places you would be home by now, especially as you've only been there a year, they seem to be quite lenient. I know I sound unsympathetic - I'm not, I'm just answering you.
Is there any further step you can take with treatment? Push it with your doctor.

Petal12 Thu 30-Jun-16 17:41:34

I hate to say this but I'm pretty sure there's not much you can do. My mum suffers extensively with migraines and had to resign from her job before she was sacked, due to sickness. She is pretty much unemployable due to them (she could easily get a job but her sickness record soon makes things difficult). We therefore "employ" her to care for our kids, who are both at school, so worst case scenario she drops them off and we arrange for pick up from a friend or finish work early. As soon as she left her job and the pressure was off, her migraines became far less frequent. Could you go part time or reduce your hours to minimise stress? Do you have known triggers to avoid? I sympathise, I've had one migraine and it was horrific!!

Busbikebuswalk Thu 30-Jun-16 17:56:56

I'm a chronic migraine sufferer so you have my full sympathy and understanding. Employers are able to follow an absence procedure whether you have declared the pre existing condition or not unfortunately. I'm incredibly lucky that my employer are very understanding and although I've been invited to attend absence reviews, I've only ever had "performance plans" set (where by my attendance is monitored).

Can you request to see or talk to occupational health? I found them to be incredibly helpful and they arranged for the strip lighting to be removed from our office as well as an "agreed attendance" target set (how many days off I'm "allowed" a quarter. Obviously I aim for none but that's not always possible).

I provide my line manager with all my letters from my neurologist and GP too, to keep on file. It's wasn't requested but they're there for reference should anyone want them.

(PS. I hate when people ask me if I've tried x,y and z but my neuro has put me on high doses of magnesium citrate and riboflavin along side my daily meds. Seems to be working after 4+ months)

FuriousFate Thu 30-Jun-16 17:57:26

I think people who are genuinely ill are often victims of company policy. I used to work for a company that logged the number of sickness instances in any rolling three month period and so on, and you could really easily fall foul of it, particularly if you returned to work as early as possible but then suffered a relapse. Rather than being seen as one extended instance, this then became two instances close together and triggered various warning letters. Added into the mix was the fact that managers could use their discretion and some did but others didn't. I know companies can't have people taking the p*ss but I saw a number of genuinely ill people whose illnesses were being made worse by draconian 'sickness policy' rules. I don't know what to advise. Do you have a union rep? Union involvement often helped where I was. Good luck, OP.

As an aside, I do think we live in a society where overall, people are much more likely to call in sick than they would have done in the past. I remember my DF going years (and I mean over ten) between days off sick. Ditto my DM and aunt and uncle. Now, they may have been blessed with good health, but they also had extremely strong senses of right and wrong and wouldn't have tried to cheat the system. It's when you get too many people who play the system that genuine cases fall victim to the policies meant to protect the employer from the cheaters.

MoonDuke Thu 30-Jun-16 18:15:57

I'm a chronic migraine sufferer and worry about work. I recently changed jobs and that, along with a change of meds has reduced my migraines to one every 5 days BUT I take my crisis medicine the minute I start getting a headache and it means I can work through it despite feeling crappy.

I used to wait to take my crisis medicine to see if the headache would turn into a migraine but that meant the meds didn't work as well.

FlibbertigibbetArmadillo Thu 30-Jun-16 18:18:00

I'm really sorry OP.
I lost a part time job just before the end of a 6 month probation due to having 3 or 4 times off for migraines. (That wasn't even a time in my life when they were most frequent!)
I think all you can do is be honest with your employer and hope they understand and maybe push for occupational health involvement?
Are you in a union?

PoundingTheStreets Thu 30-Jun-16 18:18:35

I don't think you can appeal. It's incredibly unfair that you suffer the way you do, but it's not your employer's fault. While they should try to make accommodation for you as they would with a disability to try to empower you to work as normally as possible, they are not obliged to keep your job for you if your absences are so often they are preventing you from fulfilling the terms of your employment.

One thing I would try, is to try to come up with your own strategies for how you can deal with this in the future. Can you come up with contingency plans to cover what might happen if you have a migraine when on a really important deadline for example? Can you do 'extra' in other areas to compensate for the time off you need? Are you particularly good at something that more than makes up for the fact you may need a little more time off than another employee? If you can sell yourself well in this regard, you may be able to negotiate a slightly altered terms of employment that factor in your migraines and inform your employer that in doing so you are reducing the stress that in part makes you more likely to trigger migraines.

Hope you find a solution. flowers

TheFairyCaravan Thu 30-Jun-16 18:24:18

I suffer with migraines. I take 3 preventative drugs and have 2 Triptans. I've had 5 or 6 Botox treatments on the NHS. Until recently I was getting around 15 a month. I've been having acupuncture, I now get between 3 or 4 a month. I'd highly recommend it.

I'm sorry I don't have any advice about the employment situation.

laurita42 Thu 30-Jun-16 18:35:02

From the sounds of things your migraines could be considered a disability under the Equality Act. This would mean your employer needs to make reasonable adjustments for you. You say this was previously mentioned but was it ever followed up?

I think you should appeal & ask for an OH referral to explore what adjustments could be made to support you & help you reduce your absence.

Chronic conditions like yours are hard for employers to handle but you do have rights & they should be working with you more to accomodate your needs.

Good luck, it's a horrible thing to go through.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 18:40:33

No Union and we're quite a small organisation - I don't even think we have an occ health dept.

I've been reading through loads of literature online - someone linked the migraine trust website and there's a lot on there relating to the equality act. Does anyone think it's worth going down that path - I have never said it in other jobs as I've never been at this point, but the fact of the matter is, it is an impairment & t does hinder my ability to live life normally and carry out day to day activities.

I really didn't want to have to take this stance but I'm worried sick. Potentially 2 more migraines and I could be out on my ear. I can't stop thinking about it - which in itself is a migraine trigger for me (stress) and increases the risk of me getting one (it's a vicious cycle!)

I've spoken to my GP about it all and their solution seems to be a sick note! They've given me two in the past 3 months but that isn't realistic; I can't have 2 weeks off every couple of months.

I've tried a counsellor through an employee support programme because I recognise worrying about getting more migraines is a factor in actually causing them. I asked for help to manage my stress, explained the situation and again was told I should use the sick note and stay off from work.

I feel like I am asking the people who should be able to help me for help - and all they offer me is 'stay off work until it passes'. It's not a solution when you are terrified you are going to lose your job. sad

laurita42 Thu 30-Jun-16 18:49:18

I know it's a small company, but do they have an HR department? Most small places won't have a dedicated OH team but can use an outsourced service.

I absolutely think you should appeal &query re equality act if you feel up to it. You need to know where you stand not just for this job but for the future. Get in touch with ACAS to see if they can offer any support.

Busbikebuswalk Thu 30-Jun-16 18:49:27

Can you push for a referral to see a neuro? It took me ages to get my GP to refer me but I'm so glad I pushed for it. I still get 2-3 a week but I can manage this with Triptans. I was getting maybe 1/2 migraine free days a fortnight before seeing the specialist. He suggested the supplements as above as well as cutting out dairy as hormones are my trigger (amongst other things)

They truly are shit. Totally debilitating when they strike and you don't get in there fast enough with Triptans.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 18:52:58

X-post with laurita. It was mentioned in the last formal meeting in March. When my manager said no formal action would be taken I said that's fine thank you very much, but I'm so worried about these attacks as I can't predict them etc.

She said 'well if that happens we can look at other things like reasonable adjustments'; then this time no mention of that and staaight to formal action. Like I said I'm not sure we even have an occ health. After reading the migraine trust website they say really best practise is offering a meeting with them if a new employee declares they have migraines, and offer another meeting before any formal action, none of which have been offered.

The only thing they have done is a desk assessment - but the DSE assessor even said 'there's not much we can do in terms of your work station for migraines'; other than removing lights from above my desk and adjusting brightness of the monitor sad

Tiredbutfuckingfine Thu 30-Jun-16 18:54:43

Your employer will need to pay to refer you to a private occ health company, moreso if you believe the absences are related to a disability as defined in the Equalities Act.
On the other hand if they are a small firm they may argue that they are too small to afford your level of absence.
It's up to an employment tribunal to determine whether you have a disability under the act, and then whether the employer breached the act.
I think an employer who wanted rid of you would have used the probation policy and not a 3 stage sickness policy.

Dozer Thu 30-Jun-16 18:57:40

It does sound like you're at risk of losing your job sad. Sorry about that, and your health.

Suggest YOU think of some adjustments that might help, and perhaps seek advice from the charity you mention, then make suggestions to your employer.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 19:01:19

I've asked for a referral twice in the past three months; my GP is extremely reluctant and says if they can be managed by having time off a referral is not necessary.

I truly feel your pain bus - that number of them is horrendous. I couldn't cope with 2-3 a week either so I'm in awe. I think as I'm not as extreme as someone like you, that's only getting 1 or 2 migraine free days a fortnight the GP won't want to refer. I understand that but what do you do when it's getting to the point it is severely impacting on work?

In terms of Triptans I've tried sumatriptan and naratriptan. I've also been prescribed off the back of the latest cluster zolmitriptan. They aren't a wonder drug for me - they stop it getting to the point where I'm vomiting if I can get to bed quick enough. However I've tried taking one at work when an attack came on me and it was as good as taking a smartie. Do they completely wipe an attack out for you? The only thing that seems to help me at all is getting in bed under covers and trying to sleep sad

SudsAndSodaMixOKwithBeer Thu 30-Jun-16 19:05:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HermioneWeasley Thu 30-Jun-16 19:10:15

Your migraines might be considered a disability under the Equality Act; however this means the company are required to make reasonable adjustments, and arguably the level of absence you've had is not reasonable for an employer to have to accommodate.

I'd be pushing your GP as I suspect ultimately you will lose your job if you continue this level of absence.

TheWindInThePillows Thu 30-Jun-16 19:18:08

You need to stop these migraines before they start. There are several preventive/prophylactic medicines, such as betablockers, low dose anti-depressants, I would go to a different GP and tell them you are in danger of losing your job and you need a preventive everyday medication, not just one when the migraine is already kicking in.

I take one of these and it's been fantastic, when I've come off it (due to not wanting to take medicine all the time), I go back to a few migraines a month, with it I have hardly any and the ones I do have are not that bad any more and I often just go to bed/take painkillers and they pass and I can work the next day.

Dontyoulovecalpol Thu 30-Jun-16 19:21:20

I wish people wouldn't do this after you've gone go the trouble of answering the other post angry

mylovegoesdown Thu 30-Jun-16 19:27:43

Sorry OP but I think they can do this. As far as I know, reasonable adjustments under the DDA do not include an employer having to accept frequent and excessive sickness levels.

Someone may come along to say different as they know more about HR and the law but I'm going on a recent experience of a friend who was sacked for similar levels of sickness from the NHS who many might expect to be more sympathetic around medical conditions. The person went through all the levels of the sickness policy all above board, adjustments made, reasonable sickness levels suggested and they couldn't stop going off sick more frequently so they were sacked.

It's different in cases where people become very unwell and have months off in one go with e.g cancer because that's considered to be a single period of absence. That can be appropriately covered for with a long term plan but when someone is in for a few weeks then off for a week, back in for a bit then off for a couple of days then back for a day but off again as they came back too soon and aren't fully well cause enormous problems for any team because you can't appropriately plan cover and are never sure when/for how long a team member will be in for.

I've worked in a team where a colleague did that all the time (for genuine reasons and it's not the friend who just got sacked) and it was a nightmare. They've said they'll be back tomorrow or the next day or Monday so you think certain jobs can wait till they're back but then they 'phone in sick again on the day they're due back so you have to try and cover stuff that it would really have been better to sort out when they first went off if you'd known they wouldn't be back in tomorrow/the next day/Monday. And when they come back they're feeling guilty about being off and people having to cover their work so they feel anxious and stressed about causing extra work for their colleagues and worrying if colleagues are fed up. Their work has piled up a bit which makes them more stressed. And stress makes them more likely to get ill again so you're stuck in a deadful loop.

I sympathise hugely but employers can't be in a situation where certain employees have unlimited amounts of sickness which impacts on work/colleagues regardless of the reason.

Beeziekn33ze Thu 30-Jun-16 19:32:22

Can you see a neuro consultant privately as a one off? I've done that a few times when really worried about a health problem and unwilling to wait. Or try a different gp in your practice.

Busbikebuswalk Thu 30-Jun-16 19:33:56

For me, there is a small window of opportunity with triptan. Then, they'll either work completely or not at all. I'm on a really high dose of an epilepsy drug which I take daily too. Finding the right daily med is crucial but very time consuming. It's taken me 4 years to get to where I am now. Keep at it and don't be afraid to challenge your GP. The Migraine Trust are great.

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