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To write to the COO about discrimination?

(44 Posts)
Iamnotmydisability Tue 07-Nov-17 13:19:49

This is part rant, part question so please bear with...I have name changed as this is a specific and so outing post.

Sorry, it's long because I'm upset.
TLDR: I'm self employed and just got my contract terminated for having bipolar disorder, WIBU to write a professionally worded email to the company about it?

I'm a self-employed contractor working in financial services. I've been working with a company since Feb and have had glowing feedback about my work both to me and the recruitment agency that I work for them through. They recently (as in 3-4 weeks ago) extended my contract through to June 18.

I also have bipolar disorder. I don't wear a badge that says it but I'm open about it...in that if it's relevant to a conversation I'll mention it and if it isn't I won't. Some people at work knew, some didn't.

I've just come back from 7 working days off due to my bipolar disorder. I have had two previous leaves of absence unrelated to being ill which were unavoidable (father died = 2 days off, miscarriage = 5 days off, these were in April & early August).

I was open about the fact that I was off with bipolar disorder, that I had seen my psychiatrist who had adjusted my medication. I don't often take time off with my bipolar anymore as it is well managed via medication and changes to my lifestyle.

I get back today, am pulled aside and 'let go', told to take my notice period at home and leave this morning because "they can't be sure I'll be reliable". They made this decision and lined someone up to replace me while I was off. They didn't take the time to even have a conversation with me about my illness and whether other periods of absence were likely. I've had nothing but very positive feedback about my work and they were at pains to make it clear that the decision was in no way related to my work, only to this period of absence.

I calmly said I was disappointed as I didn't feel we would be having the same conversation if I'd had one instance of time off with a physical disease.

I'm not naive, I know I'm a contractor and so don't get the same protection but these are people I get on with very well and have worked with one before. I think it would have been more appropriate to have a conversation on my return about the likelihood of any further time off and make a decision from there.

God knows what they were thinking to pull someone aside on their first day back from a bipolar blip to sack them....I might not be an employee, but I'm still a person.

Anyway, I'm really quite shocked about the whole thing. In particular I think it gives a pretty awful and clear message to permanent staff with MH issues that 'we support you because we legally have to, otherwise you'd be out on your arse immediately'.

My permy colleagues are apparently having 'hissy fits' about how it's been handled back at the office.

The COO has previously disclosed to me that his DW had bipolar (and very sadly took her own life) when it came up in a private conversation a few months back because a permanent member of staff committed suicide.

WIBU to write an honest but professional email to him about what has happened?

I don't want money or my role back, such is the life of a contractor, but I consider myself a MH advocate about stigma and feel like I'm not helping by simply sloping off with my tail between my legs.

PS: There's nothing I can do about this in a legal sense. I'm a limited company so they are within their legal rights to discriminate against me on any basis they fancy.

BulletFox Tue 07-Nov-17 13:30:39

Ummm...I used to work as a contractor so understand the lack of stability.

Can you write the letter, get someone trustworthy to read it, then decide whether to send it or not? If you feel angry about the organisation not being able to address MH issues then you'd also need to cc in HR.

LaGattaNera Tue 07-Nov-17 13:35:05

Yes provided it is not emotional. You might want to write it then sleep on it and review. Sorry for you flowers

Iamnotmydisability Tue 07-Nov-17 13:37:14

I definitely won't be emotional. It's not my style and definitely wouldn't write and send it today. More like the end of the week once I've had chance to calm down and write something professional and sensible...

Iamnotmydisability Tue 07-Nov-17 13:39:02

I'm just so annoyed about the assumptions they've made without even talking to me....that it will happen again, that I will be unreliable, etc.

justicewomen Tue 07-Nov-17 13:40:59

If you are the employee of a limited company (even if your own) then you could bring a claim (with you as a contract worker) against the other company (who are the "principal" ) under section 41 Equality Act (but obviously if the evidence supports that your dismissal was on grounds of disability). Your limited company is a separate legal entity to you and you would argue that it placed you as a contract worker in the workplace of the principal.This would not require you to also sue your own ltd company.

It is a very technical argument but certainly worth exploring (if you don't think it would affect adversely your career.) See if a local law centre has a discrimination law project or a lawyer would do a no win no fee agreement, if you cannot afford a lawyer

LaGattaNera Tue 07-Nov-17 13:44:57

Totally agree with you OP

Crunchymum Tue 07-Nov-17 13:56:37

I am so sorry about your dad and your miscarriage, but 14 days absence since Febraury is an awful lot of time off.

Given that 7 if these days were after your contract extension, well it doesn't look good.

Have they let you go for overall attendance issues as opposed to you having bipolar?

I don't know how protected you are as a contractor but I know that any full time member of staff with 14 days absence in a year (and it's less than a year for you OP) would be in a precarious position at my company.

Crunchymum Tue 07-Nov-17 13:57:27

Sorry of I've missed anything obvious here, like you blatantly being told you are being dismissed because you have bipolar? That is completely different.

DJBaggySmalls Tue 07-Nov-17 13:59:44

If you are in the UK contact ACAS for advice.

DJBaggySmalls Tue 07-Nov-17 14:01:26

Sorry, I hit enter too soon...You have some protection under the Equality Act because you have a disability, but IDK how being self employed changes things.
The Acas helpline number is 0300 123 1100. It is available Monday 8am-8pm, Tuesday 8am-6pm, Wednesday to Thursday 8am-8pm, Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 9am-1pm.

www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2042

If you dont have any legal redress then send an email. What they did is out of order.

OrangeCountyEssex Tue 07-Nov-17 14:54:01

It would be totally reasonable to write something - also are you contracted to this company through an agency? If so, any agency worth it's salt would take a very dim view of this, so they should also be informed and take some action on your part.

Previous posters have said that 14 days off since Feb is a lot - legally if you were a permanent employee of the company it wouldn't be a lot at all and probably wouldn't raise much alarm as you could have self certificated for the first 5 days of each incidence of absence (HR bod talking here!)

Sorry this has happened to you OP x

Allthebestnamesareused Tue 07-Nov-17 15:41:57

Surely they have terminated the contract as they have deemed you to be unreliable in having had so many days off in such a short period rather than discriminating against you because you have bi-polar?

If you are only on a fixed term contract and have had that many days off they are looking for someone who will be around to get the work done in the timescale they require. To date (although your standard of work may be being praised) it would appear that you may not be there to get it done in a timely fashion.

I think you are clutching at straws and therefore YABU to try to drag the COO into it merely because his wife also suffers with BPD.

Princecharlesfirstwife Tue 07-Nov-17 15:53:41

If I'd had 14 days off since April I'd be under formal action, whatever my reasons for sickness. I honestly don't see what writing to the COO would achieve.

TheSnowFairy Tue 07-Nov-17 16:01:24

Not including April, you have had 12 working days off since August.

That is the reason you have not been kept on.

Oddmanout Tue 07-Nov-17 16:16:34

Everyone has reasons for being off and a bereavement of a close family member (something which I've been through this year myself, so I'm sorry OP) requires time off end of. The number of days doesn't matter if its proportional to the issue faced.

Iamnotmydisability Thu 09-Nov-17 17:12:40

I'm quite surprised that some posters would take into account the death of a parent and a miscarriage in determining whether someone was 'reliable'.

I only had one father, he can't die again.

I'm not trying to get pregnant so the chances of me having a miscarriage are slim to none now until after the contract would have ended anyway.

DancesWithOtters Thu 09-Nov-17 17:20:01

I don't think YABU. It's shit, and you should send the letter so that it can be investigated whether your BP had anything to do with it.

Mind you, I'm on a permanent contract and 3 periods of absence totalling 14 days would cause you to be monitored at my company. It's shit, but it's not uncommon :-(

MrsSchadenfreude Thu 09-Nov-17 17:20:09

I don't think it necessarily relates to your condition, it is the fact that, as someone else has said, you have had 12 days off since August, which gives doubt as to your reliability.

HildeburgBrown Thu 09-Nov-17 17:29:22

I'm sorry you've had such a shitty year, losing your father and suffering a miscarriage in a short space of time flowers.

I don't know if you can claim discrimination, but I would email to say that you are unhappy with the way they let you go - i.e. without any warning that they were unhappy with the amount of absence. They didn't give you any chance to improve, or any chance to reassure them that this was an unusual occurrence. I think they were unprofessional.

brasty Thu 09-Nov-17 17:32:27

I too think it is a lot of days off.

But I also know that there is a lot of prejudice about mental illness and I would never disclose something like that at work.

brasty Thu 09-Nov-17 17:48:42

By saying a lot of days off, obviously they were all totally justified. But so many places now are so hot on any sick leave at all.
But yes, worth writing a letter.

cheminotte Thu 09-Nov-17 17:52:35

We use the Bradford factor at my work and that many sickness absences would be a problem. But a bereavement would be compassionate leave and a miscarriage is maternity related so doesn't count either. Unfortunately this is where being a contractor is very different to a permanent employee.

smudgedlipstick Thu 09-Nov-17 18:16:38

We are allowed 4 days off before they can start formal disciplinary proceedings so I’m not surprised after 14 days off in less than a year you have been let go, that’s quite a lot of absence. Understandable absence, I feel for you, but from a business point of view that amount of absence is not acceptable

Uptheduffy Thu 09-Nov-17 18:28:16

As an employee only the most recent days off would count as sickness absence - the others are compassionate leave and absence due to pregnancy. So I would be in no bother at all.
I think you have kept both absences to a minimum - I'm sure most people are off around a week for a bereavement like that, and I've had a fortnight for a miscarriage before.

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