Reasonable Adjustments & Work Issues (Advice needed.)(6 Posts)
Bit of a long one this, so I thank you in advance for reading this & your patience & any advice & help you can offer me.
I have also name changed as I don?t want anyone to recognise me & I feel embarrassed.
I have Bipolar Disorder & am on medication (mood stabiliser & anti depressant); I have support from a CPN & see my psychiatrist every 2 months.
I have worked for my organisation for over 10 years, currently part time since I had my child. My workplace has known about me having Bipolar since I started. I have a flexible working agreement in place (due to being a parent) but no reasonable adjustments agreement, basically as I am unsure of what to suggest.
I am having a formal meeting at work regarding the amount of time taken off work due to sickness. Apart from severe tonsillitis last winter my absences have been due to the bipolar disorder.
Work requested permission o see my doctors notes/health records in December 2010. This I agreed to.
This is the first formal meeting since work receiving my health records in January 2011.
The episodes have been because of medication changes, medication issues & the last sickness was due to an incident at work. (Basically another colleague made an error, and then blamed me. I did make a slight procedural error too but that is down to not being told of this procedure. No money was lost & the customer didn't complain. My manager was on leave so another manager spoke to me, he accepted that I wasn't aware of the procedure but said it wasn't very good customer service. Also the customer had the same name as someone from my past who caused me a great deal of physical & emotional abuse. This also threw me but I did deal with client as professionally as I would deal with anyone else.)
Sorry I can't go into more detail but it would identify the organisation I work for as it for a very specific role/service.
I felt shocked but got on with the rest of my work that afternoon. However when I got home the stress of the situation made me cry & feel very upset & I started to doubt my ability & confidence to do my job. These feelings got worse & I started to feel very bad, shaky, extremely anxious, and unable to speak to anyone especially on the telephone. I withdrew socially, started to get depressed & had the following two weeks off work.
Also prior to the incident at work my psychiatrist had told me to reduce my dosage of anti depressant because he felt I could be heading for a hypomanic episode. Though with hindsight he realises that I was just so happy to be feeling well/balanced. But the reduction in this medication had started to make me feel low.
I had two weeks holiday booked so took this as previously agreed (I would have gone back to work if not on leave, as I started to feel better (managed to give myself a good talking too & also had help & reassurance from my CPN, husband & friends.)
Got back to work & my manager was on annual leave. Switched on my computer & started to feel shaky so went to see the HR person & then burst into tears. Discussed the situation with her & she sent me home. I was then off work for another two weeks.
So a bit off a setback but agreed with work (after consultation with my GP) that I was to have a gradual return to work phased over two weeks & the rest of my work hours would be covered by paid annual leave.
Work then reneged & wanted me to take unpaid leave (even though I have enough paid annual leave hours left) but finally agreed I could have paid leave when I mentioned reasonable adjustments. (I spoke to a very helpful lady at ACAS about this issue.)
During this period I have also had some extended family matters to deal with which has been very stressful for me & my husband.
I am also waiting have a CAT scan on my head to see if there any other underlying disorders in my brain due to balance & some slight motor/spatial issues
I restarted work three weeks ago with a gradual return to my full duties.
I have also been commended for my customer service, client dealings & professionalism over the years, noted formally in appraisals & have been promoted.
However I still felt sick/anxious/very panicky about the mere thought of having to speak to clients on the telephone. Last Tuesday I asked if I could spend that morning getting myself ready/psyched up for dealing with phone calls. My boss said that she would have to check with the resource planning department who give us a daily schedule of activities to complete. Their computer said no. I panicked & started to cry as I thought I would be useless with clients on the phone. The room started spinning, I felt sick.
I vaguely remember my boss leading me out of the room into a back corridor. Apparently then I started screaming incoherently & punching the wall & myself. I have only a hazy recollection of this as I was dissociated.
Then apparently a senior manager comforted me & calmed me down.
It took over an hour to get back to nearly normal as I could not stop crying & shaking.
Only my boss & her manager witnessed my breakdown & at no time was I a danger to them, perhaps only to myself.
I was told I should go home even though I offered to stay and work but obviously I was not in a fit state to do that.
I came back to work the following day feeling a mixture of being absolutely terrified & shameful but bizarrely on top of the world.
I managed to do my work that day & most importantly deal with some clients by telephone which wasn't as awful as I feared.
I saw my CPN this week (usually see her every two to four weeks.) and she thinks I had a panic attack due to post traumatic stress issues.
My boss & her boss appeared very supportive. This week I am on annual leave (booked last winter) & have received a letter from work stating that there will be a formal meeting to discuss my levels of sickness, the incident at work & my continued employment with the company! I can take someone with me to the meeting.
Also included were a written testimony from my boss & one from her boss about my breakdown at work. My boss stated that she was frightened I may have punched her. (Even though after the incident I felt so shameful, I couldn't stop apologising & said that I hope I didn't frighten or hurt anyone. The bosses said more or less don't be silly we were just worried about you.)
Although I was expecting a discussion about my sickness & what reasonable adjustments work could give me (been waiting for months), the other bit has floored me.
I have received email clarification from my boss that the meeting isn?t a disciplinary but a meeting with HR present to discuss my situation & how this impacts on work. To discuss my sickness & recent incident.
I have arranged a colleague to come with me to this meeting on my first day back at work this week.
But I am terrified & very worried that I could lose my job.
My husband is aware of everything apart from the breakdown at work. I am scared to tell him as he would get really upset & start worrying about how we would manage/pay the mortgage if I didn?t work. (The only other money I get is lower rate DLA for care & mobility, plus child benefit & child tax credit).
I feel all in a mess & don?t know what to think or do. The original thing at work was the main contributor to my latest bipolar episode exacerbated by a toxic sister screaming abuse at me down the telephone (but that?s another post which I won?t bore you with.)
I can?t think of what reasonable adjustments to ask for.
Apologies for writing a novel but I know you guys are extremely helpful & I thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart for just getting through this epic.
Perhaps you could ask for a space to be available for when you need to let off steam e.g. A meeting room, where you can go when you feel overwhelmed.
You could agree a code word to email or phone your boss if you need to take time away from a situation quickly without people commenting.
You could also ask for flexitime, so when you feel good you can work extra hours which then don't count as sick time when you're unable to work.
I hope that helps.
I think there are several issues here:
- Time of sick
- The breakdown / punching the wall
- Any Reasonable Adjustments
Bipolar is covered by the DDA act which is one thing you have going for you - so they are required to make reasonable adjustments.
What adjustments would you / shirnk / CPN feel would help you and could you do your job if these were made. E.g. not speaking on phone. Bear in mind that if you job is centred around using the phone it may not be a reasonable adjustment so you may look at changing role (subject to there being one).
Your employer may use the repeated incidents/sick to terminate your employment on grounds of ill health though there is not "if you've been off for x in y days we can get rid of you" so is not often used (exp in DDA cases). I mostly used it to terminate people that are long, long, term sick and aren't expected to come back.
Best bet is to go and see what they say then report back.
In addition to the suggestions from others, it strikes me that the feedback after the first issue was the trigger, so you might benefit from exploring how any future feedback needs to be handled, especially if your usual line-manager is absent.
There is a difficulty for the employer in that your behaviour could have been a danger to yourself and others, so they cannot just forget about it. You may need to thinkk about how to give warnings if you feel anything similar appraoching in the future - using the code idea perhaps.
Also, you might be asked if you've had such panic attacks before - and if so was there any build-up which you can recognise in future.
If your record is otherwise good, as you say, I hope your employers will be sympathetic and be seeking to work with you to ensure you can continue working with them. I'd suggest you be as open as possible about your commitment to the organisation and willingness to try out ways of ensuring you can control any future severe anxiety so that you don't suffer such an attach in future. Its good for you that they've clarified the meeting is not a disciplinary.
I hope you'll be able to consider options together and come up with an agreed way forward.
I agree with Grevling.
If you see a psychiatrist regularly is he/she not able to give an opinion as to whether there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made to enable you to do your job/remain employed?
What about Occupational Health?
Is it a big employer? I ask because based on your comments, and without knowledge of your condition, it seems there is a possibility that staying in your existing job may be difficult, and a big employer is obviously more likely to be in a position to redeploy you.
Ultimately if it is clear that you cannot do your job, it is possible to dismiss you on capability grounds, however this would not be without first exploring every possible way of making adjustments either to your existing job, or by finding an alternative. So focus needs to be on that. If your doctors haven't given views as to reasonable adjustments yet, get them to write to your employers along those lines. Ask your employers for an appointment with an Occupational Health specialist as well.
Best of luck.
Thank you all very much for your input.
Although my employer is medium sized unfortunately they don't have an occupational health department.
My employer can also be a bit inconsistent/erratic when it comes to down to work issues.
My last breakdown/panic attack whilst at work was six years ago. (Due to many changes in the workplace affecting all employees/ineffective senior management & not following the proper emloyment/consultant procedures - the whole workplace nearly had a nervous breakdown.)
This episode was not formally noted, as I remember I was just asked if I would be ok & could anything be done to help. However I did get my hours of work formally agreed after months of being messed about by my employer.
I am capable of doing my job and I & my CPN think the first issue was the trigger as Grevling says.
There is quite an atmosphere of stress amongst my colleagues at the moment due to an impending change in terms & conditions mainly to due changes in shift times. However I have a flexible working agreement in place so keep my days & times of work as they are at the moment.
I think the suggestions about having a quiet place or being able to work in a quieter area are good.
The code word seems like a good idea.
Not sure if my employer could get their head around the idea of flexi-time.
There are some other duties I can do when the need arises (just need some extra training or time to train myself, which sometimes all of us part timers struggle to get.)
I have also been told to look at/contact Access To Work.
I think perhaps that I have got my knickers in too much of a twist & panicked when I first read the letter from my employer. (Well I hope so.)
As I am not back at work until next week I will try my hardest to not let this affect me and I will report back after my meeting.
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