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Migraines in the workplace and disciplinary procedures

(15 Posts)
carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 16:04:54


I've posted on 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.

aginghippy Thu 30-Jun-16 16:41:06

That all sounds terrible careless brew

You probably need to start a conversation with your boss about reasonable adjustments. I suggest you contact the Migraine Trust. There is a lot of useful stuff on their website and they also offer an advocacy service that might be able to help.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 16:51:50

Thank you. I will have a look at the link - but the next step now is appeal (which I am going to do I think) and I will broach reasonable adjustments in that.

I'm currently on a week's leave at the moment and absolutely dreading Monday already. sad

mylovegoesdown Thu 30-Jun-16 17:44:33

You've had eight incidents of sickness in 12 months. Four of which were for a week each. Is that correct?

Portabella24 Thu 30-Jun-16 18:08:03

Hi Careless really sorry to hear that

I managed someone who had debilitating migraines and because they had been going on for so long, our advice was that we needed to treat it as a disability under the Equalities Act. That's important because that places a duty on your employer to make reasonable adjustments for you.

I got Migraine Action to come in (the cost was really reasonable - around £400) who assessed the workplace and talked to the employee about possible triggers. Some she was able to manage and we made some minor changes with the position of her desk, a thicker blind etc. We also asked them to talk to the team so everyone understood the impact of migraines and it massively increased the support. Some people still think that migraines aren't a real thing.

Really hope you can get this sorted with your employer.

bewarethewalkers Thu 30-Jun-16 18:38:02

Excellent advice from Portabello. I wish she was my manager!

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 19:07:07

Me too beware! Wow what a star you are.

No maybe I didn't explain it clearly. I've had 8 instances - I had 4 separate 'instances' in a period of about a week and a half of a day / half a day each. On these days I had gone into work and a migraine attack came on. Then eventually I took a week off because every time I returned to work I got another attack.

Same this time, two absences in a week with a day in between. One day absences, linked, but as I went back to work in between they are classed as two separate instances sad

Dontyoulovecalpol Thu 30-Jun-16 19:11:00

It doesn't seem like the company have done anything wrong- they don't have to keep you on if you're considered too unwell to perform the job. I know it's a very very hard time, but this must be unbelievably awful for you and you must be sick
With worry- is the job really worth this? I know it's hard, no are there other options?

Portabella24 Thu 30-Jun-16 20:33:18

I disagree - if someone is good at their job, I'd rather spend a small amount in finding a solution than go through the hassle of recruitment.

Careless do go down the reasonable adjustments route. Explore possible triggers in your workplace (including stress) all of which can be adjusted for. You should not feel you have to leave and you should not be discriminated against. One of the reasonable adjustments we made was that the sickness policy didn't apply if it was migraine-related absence. You should not take annual leave when you are ill.

Isn't this how everyone should be treated? You have legal protections (for now anyway) so please don't settle for poor treatment.

carelesswhisper27 Thu 30-Jun-16 23:17:59

In theory it's how everyone should be treated but look at the responses on this thread, on the other thread in AIBU. You're a rare type of manager I would suspect. I worry that the management at my work would see this the way a lot of others have done on here (which I do understand too), and an appeal will be futile. Not only will it be futile but I'm worried I will then look like a trouble causer and in the long run things will be worse. I don't know, to sleep on it I think! sad

IceMaiden73 Fri 01-Jul-16 07:16:40

It's a difficult one, one the one hand you have a serious ongoing illness.

On the other hand your employer needs to be able to run their business and maybe cannot sustain prolonged and regular instances of illness.

It doesn't sound like this is the wrong company for you, though I think it might be hard to find somewhere that can accommodate this.

Regarding, can they do this. Yes they can if you are in breach of their sickness guidelines in the staff handbook

YesThisIsMe Fri 01-Jul-16 07:21:45

The problem is that if it's a physical trigger like light or noise it may be easy to fix, but if, as it sounds, it's the stress that's intrinsic to the job that's the problem then it'll be a more difficult to make adjustments. Do have a serious think OP about what specific things are triggering them, and what might be done differently to help.

Toffeelatteplease Fri 01-Jul-16 07:32:29

Am I right in thinking you went to work whilst on a sick note? I'm guessing this was due to pressure from work. I didn't think this was allowable unless the doctor has written in for a phased return or to allow time if the patient feels well enough.

I would check out whether any absence as a result of returning to work should be discounted. But no expert just remembering times when I have been off sick and a family member has.

flowery Fri 01-Jul-16 08:32:36

Migraines can be considered a disability, but not automatically. If yours aren't, then you have very little protection due to your length of service.

Appeal if you want to, but your focus should be what can you do to reduce the impact of these on your work. You obviously feel reasonable adjustments are a possibility, so make sure you tell your manager what these things are that will help - regardless of whether it's a disability, if there are things your employer can put in place that will alleviate the burden on you and on them, it makes sense for them to do it, but they may not know what they are, so don't wait for them to suggest it.

Similarly with the disability question, it's entirely likely they have no idea this could be a disability, so if you want the protection that affords you, and consider that it is a disability, you need to tell them that.

Is your GP helpful? Again, if there are adjustments that can be made to enable you to have fewer absences, he/she could write to your employer recommending them. Or you could ask your employer for an OH referral. Either a GP or OH professional should also be able to give an opinion about whether this is a disability or not.

carelesswhisper27 Fri 08-Jul-16 23:25:14

Thanks all for the advice. I did appeal it and I'm having an assessment with occ health (external) and they want a report from my GP. Am glad I did it and even if the outcome isn't in my favour at least I know I tried! Thanks for all messages smile

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