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Grievance procedure or try to negotiate a way out? Desperately need advice

(306 Posts)
zaazaa Fri 04-Nov-16 12:07:47

I have been at my work place for nearly 10 years, no disciplinaries etc. I have managed a huge flagship project singlehandedly during that time and acknowledged as being really good at it. Basically, new senior manager started a year ago and over 17 people have left my department - some without jobs to go to as it is so awful in there.

In March we got moved to a new work space which is just a big void in the building like an atrium - very loud, echo chamber, hot, infested with brick mites, coloured lights flashing above my head and air-con that blows dust on us. In addition they have sat me so that my chair hits the back of the reception desk chair if I push my chair back even slightly so I have constant disturbance all day.

This has caused me to have migraines and my productivity to suffer - complained verbally and in email to management and was more or less told to put up and shut up. Migraines resulted in my being sent to Occupational Health who recommended flexibility if I wasn't feeling well and change of work space. Nothing was done. I approached senior manager to ask about implementing recommendations and was told I had to produce medical evidence which I did. I then continued having migraines and OH appts where they were shocked nothing had been done. I was also relieved of my major project at this time on flimsy grounds and my manager actually lied to me about it and also said he was doing it to make sure that knowledge wasn't lodged with just one person but nobody else has had their projects where they are solely responsible removed and given to other people (no performance issues as I am universally acknowledged as doing an excellent job for it).

Since September 13th been signed off with stress related illness/migraines. I have had my fit note extended by 6 weeks by my GP today. I can't face going back

My last OH appt was with the consultant on Wednesday and he advised approaching them for a severance package as he said he can't force them to make changes and he knows how bad it is at my workplace as he has seen others.

Should I raise a grievance for them not taking steps to help when my health was suffering? Should I approach them for a settlement package and if I do, do I have grounds for a potential tribunal to use as leverage? I don't want to work for them any more, seen them abuse too many good people, staff churn is enormous and I have no trust or confidence in them and don't believe they will do anything to help. In other words, I think this guy wants me out and that is why he has done nothing to help/stripped me of my main project..

If anyone is HR out there please could you advise because I would rather mutually call it quits than slog it out and it get nasty. Thank you

flowery Sat 05-Nov-16 11:48:02

Don't ask for a settlement- they have no incentive to give you one at the moment. They would say if you don't want to come back to work you are free to resign.

I would suggest raising a grievance. If they think there is significant legal vulnerability and a tribunal claim with reasonable chance of success looming, then they might feel incentivised to pay you off. But if you haven't even raised a grievance yet that isn't the case.

If the OH has made recommendations to enable you to return to work, what reason have they given you for not implementing those?

zaazaa Sun 06-Nov-16 10:48:37

Hi Flowery, thanks so much for your response. In the second OH report, the OH nurse reminded them that they could be in breach of HSE regulations by not taking any action. My first OH report was at the end of May at the extreme insistence of my senior manager (something like 15 emails asking if I had booked appointments and when I pointed out that I had projects running and couldn't be away from work at that time but was happy to make an appointment once the project ended in a week or so, he said if you don't make an appointment, I will get HR to make it for you) and since May, they have not approached me to have a meeting or mentioned anything at all to me about adjustments or even what is going on. The only time they have specifically referred to what is going is when the senior manager refused to allow me to work from home when I wrote after my first OH appointment. I cited the OH recommendations and that I couldn't get important work with a deadline done because it was so loud/uncomfortable in there and that is when he responded asking for medical evidence and said because we are customer facing (for the most part we are not) that everyone has to be in the office at all times.

In August he removed my major project with no consultation or discussion and gave it to a colleague who had only started there the week before and had no experience and said that the Director I was working with knew about it and was on board with it. When I asked the Director later why he didn't mention anything, he responded via email that he knew nothing about it and this was the first he had heard of it.

In place of my project, he gave me two lesser projects but even then, these were more or less farmed out to a temp with nobody communicating anything to me yet my direct line manager had been having contact every day with them temp and the other Directors and informing everyone except me what was going on. They then decided to drop everything on me with only 2 days to go until the project started so I wrote to the people involved and asked if they could from now on come through me rather than the temp as I would be looking after things going forwards and I got emails back saying this isn't what my direct line manager manager had asked for and he and the temp were to be copied in to everything. By this stage, 3 months of frustration boiled over and I fired of an email f an email asking them to forgive me for my ignorance as nobody had taken the time to tell me what was going on and I demanded a meeting with my direct line manager.

I had a frank discussion with him including about the OH stuff and he said that as he had only been in post since May, he hadn't had time to get around to sorting it out yet. A couple of weeks later I had a migraine that lasted for two days and of such severity I was frightened and went to my GP to ask about alternative medications and she started questioning me and said that she felt that not only was it an unhealthy environment but that it sounded to her like there was some bullying going on and that is when she initially signed me off.

The only mention of workplace adjustments from management have come in an email I received on Thursday when my line manager asked if I was returning to work on Monday and to let him know if there were any adjustments that needed to be made.

So in a nutshell:

Refused to make adjustments despite OH recommendations and warnings about HSE regulations for months with no mention of intentions to do anything or reasons given as to why they couldn't/wouldn't do anything

Sidelined me at work and stripped me of my major project for no sound business reason and with no consultation after 10 years of getting excellent results and causing me humiliation by not putting out an email to explain why.

Ignored repeated emails asking for help with situation/complaints about work environment - I know many of my colleagues have also complained

Refused to help even after receiving a GP's report

Been left hanging since May despite 3 OH reports , a GP's report and 3 fit notes plus numerous verbal and email communications from my self asking for help.

zaazaa Thu 08-Dec-16 12:32:46

Further to the above, I have now attended 4 OH appointments, given in 3 sick notes from my GP and a letter. My last OH consultation was on Monday and the consultant doctor I saw was furious as my line manager had 'nitpicked' his way through the entire report. He was asking for information extraneous to what I have been signed off for and that is not legally required to be divulged. He questioned my GP's last sick note as it just stated migraines and not migraines/stress as on the previous two sick notes (an oversight by the GP I am sure).

Timeline is:

31 March moved to new office space
18 April 1st email complaint from me about noise and conditions
31 May attended 1st OH appt where recommendations to allow me to be moved to a different place and to work some hours from home were made.
2 June 1st OH report sent out
14 June email to manager outlining conditions again and requesting to be allowed to work from home the following afternoon due to being unable to work due to noise etc. Request was denied on the grounds that further medical evidence needed before adjustments could be considered.
23rd June GP letter stating migraine problem exacerbated by work conditions and recommending OH adjustments implemented handed in.
12 September meeting booked 'to discuss OH report' dated early June for September 16
15th September attend GP surgery following severe migraine to ask about alternative medication. GP decides to sign me off for 2 weeks with stress/migraines
16 September meeting did not go ahead
30 September 2nd OH appt in which I reported no adjustments had been made since last OH consultation in early June. HSE regulations possibly breached was pointed out by OH.
7 October signs me off for 4 weeks for stress/migraines
1st November 3rd OH appt in which doctor states that unless adjustments are made it is forseeable that health problems will continue and suggests meeting with me to discuss
7 November GP gives another fit note for 6 weeks
6 December 4th OH appt in which doctor is exasperated by long 2 page critique/questions of his previous report and the inclusion of my sickness record since I started working there is 2007 in addition to demands to reveal information he isn't obliged to give or that have a bearing on my consultation.
15 December meeting booked on 21 November with line manager to 'discuss adjustments' to take place.

Basically they left me with stress and headaches for 3.5 months before any mention of meetings to discuss OH reports was made by them. I had to chase them about it and I have lost all faith in them.

I would like to negotiate a settlement agreement but realise that success depends upon possibility of litigation success etc. I could raise a grievance but honestly, I would like to walk away with a few months salary until I get a new job and settle things amicably. I have worked there for 10 years, given good service, no disciplinaries and cooperated with everything they have asked of me throughout despite them ignoring emails and verbal reports of how the new environment was affecting me and also the OH recommendations/GP letter being disregarded.

Do I have a good case to ask for a settlement agreement? The meeting is on Monday. I am 46 so not a feckless kid and very, very worried and anxious about it all. I actually felt sick and wobbly after my last OH appt due to the aggressive and lengthy nature of the line manager's rebuttal to the OH doctor's report. I don't want to go back as although I can't prove it, I do feel this senior manager has a personal grudge but trying to keep everything factual. If someone can chip in on this with latest developments, I would be very grateful.

Brightonmum1 Thu 08-Dec-16 20:39:50

Hi Zaza
I don't think you have any other option other than to raise a grievance.. if only to get a fair reference. If this guy is that much of a bully then he wouldn't hesitate to make things as difficult for you as he can when applying for other positions.
You need to play the game otherwise you could be out of work for quite some time as you can't tell a future employer that you've been bullied as it would ring alarm bells for them.
If I was you I would also try to discreetly record him giving you a hard time using your mobile as well because all of this evidence will stack up.
But take it from me your work colleagues will not want to get involved in situations like this as they all need there jobs and wouldn't want to go through the same thing as you.

flowery Thu 08-Dec-16 21:41:36

My advice remains unchanged from my first post on this thread. To give you 'a few months' pay' they need an incentive to do so. If you walk in and ask to be paid off without even having raised a grievance you will be giving the clear impression you are desperate to leave, will resign anyway and have no intention/willingness to bring any kind of legal claim. Therefore why would they pay you? There would be no commercial sense in doing that, and you risk giving the impression you are leaving anyway but are 'trying it on' to see if you can get some cash- an approach which IME may go down like a lead balloon and harden any resolve against paying you off.

Either raise a grievance, make a pest of yourself, indicate you believe you have a good claim and ensure they get the impression you are willing to take it all the way, thereby giving them clear incentive to pay you off, or resign.

zaazaa Thu 08-Dec-16 22:11:06

Thanks flowery and brightonmum, I think I have been wavering because I feel a bit scared of it all and I know that what you are saying makes sense. I will download the grievance info from the intranet tomorrow xx

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 08-Dec-16 22:13:47

Flowery is spot on here (as usual!) and is a lawyer, I think.

Do I have a good case to ask for a settlement agreement? As she said, no. There's no incentive for them to pay you off. If you ask, you'll just show that you're planning to leave - it sounds like they lose nothing then, they've already given your important project away, and it'd be insane for them to agree to pay you more than they need too.

If you want a settlement, you're going to need to follow the grievance procedure and make a fuss so that they pay attention to you. If they don't believe that you'll go through with it, or that you have a strong case, they are just going to wait for you to resign.

Employment tribunals are awful; employers know that as well as employees. They are expensive, they drag on, they are rarely dead certs. I have just sat through one for disability discrimination, it was hard on everyone.

Settlement isn't an option at the moment - it's grievance or resign; and if you go for the former, it's generally hoping that they take advice and come to you with a settlement.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 08-Dec-16 22:14:05

Cross posts. Best of luck flowers

daisychain01 Thu 08-Dec-16 22:51:43

I agree with flowery and brighton, zaazaa you will need to raise a grievance.

You have a lot of info including dates. You've been through a lot, your frustration is clear, but I would recommend you tone down the grievance statement, as it can come across as aggressive and may get people's backs up.

Can you contact someone in HR for them to be the go-between to mediate between you and the manager. Say you want to raise your grievance in a way that highlights your challenges but that you want to resolve it amicably.

daisychain01 Thu 08-Dec-16 22:55:45

Sorry anchor, I didn't see your post, I agree with you re tribunals.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Thu 08-Dec-16 22:59:22

Definitely raise a grievance. If you do consider tribunals etc you would be expected to show you had tried every avenue to resolve the issue including the grievance route.

Your manager is making a massive excuse saying he has only been managing you since May. I line manage three people and have done since the start of October. I have negotiated my way through our occupational health and reasonable adjustments policies for two of them, one of whom is in the early stages of pregnancy and the other one has just been diagnosed with a degenerative condition. The workplace assessor has been in and recommended certain adjustments and within 3 days I had arranged for them to be carried out, including a fixed desk (we usually hotdesk) and Chair, and working from home once a week. If I can sort all that in a few weeks why can't your manager implement your RAs after 7 months?

daisychain01 Thu 08-Dec-16 23:05:32

Zaazaa, try this link, it is the Citizens Advice Bureau grievance letter generator.

You enter your text into each section and it automatically creates a letter to send. You can adjust the format as it is created in MS Word.

There is a lot of really clear and helpful advice on their website. Hope it helps you get a fair deal and that your migraines improve once you're out of that awful environment. Take care x

daisychain01 Thu 08-Dec-16 23:08:23

AndNone, you sound like a caring and supportive manager. If only everyone took such care.

BerylStreep Thu 08-Dec-16 23:30:25

It might be worth speaking with Industrial injuries and lying your condition as an industrial injury.

I agree with raising a grievance that adjustments have not been made.

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 08:43:18

Flowery, BrightonMum, DaisyChain, BerylStreep and AnchorDown thank you all so much for your responses and advice. You have really strengthened my resolve. Flowery, I wasn't ignoring your advice, I think I was just so scared to start a grievance process as this guy is pretty vindictive and I would prefer to quietly resolve this but as you say, they have no incentive at the moment. Just me being scared about it all. My stomach has been in knots and this week, my migraines have come back following the OH consultation and discovering that aggressive 2 page referral in which he questioned my GP's diagnosis, her fit notes and included my entire sickness record since 2006 with an inference that this was something that happened all the time. The OH doc said but it doesn't happen all the time and I can see that from this record and besides this has nothing to do with what you are being referred to me for now so what is his point? He manages 3 departments and as the OH doctor said, he seems to be taking a very personal interest in you when he should only be rubber stamping OH adjustments.

I showed my GP what he had said about her in his rebuttal and she decided to issue a new fit note with workplace stress causing my other symptoms and backdated it but also added another 2 weeks on in January. She was furious he had questioned her care of me as her patient and her professional opinion and also said he had acted outside his remit asking the OH doctor to divulge other medical information.

I am just waiting for my last OH report from Monday as the consultant was furious at what was taking place too. So he has ignored the advice of 3 doctors and one OH nurse and annoyed them all. So I am ending the fit note to them today.

I have postponed the meeting set for next week until after Christmas as to be honest I have had terrible headaches all week due to the stress of it all. I have been feeling sick with anxiety so thank you thank thank you all for your help and reassurance.

My next question is do you think I raise a grievance before Christmas given that the place closes for holidays next Friday or do it in the new year? I feel like crying with relief now that you have all clarified things for me xxxx

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 08:51:25

Sorry, I should clarify that the one doing all the questioning etc is a senior manager and the one saying he hasn't been in post long is my direct line manager who is in charge of my department.

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 08:52:19

Andnone, thank you for your advice too. I wish I had a manager as lovely as you sound x

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Fri 09-Dec-16 09:24:59

Thanks daisy and zaazaa. I have had rubbish managers myself in the past so I manage like I would wish to be managed, and I'm also a union rep so I have contacts in HR and management if things are not being sorted smile

flowery Fri 09-Dec-16 11:14:06

No I didn't think you were ignoring my advice, I was just saying that it hadn't changed in the light of your additional posts.

I think you need to decide what your personal priorities are. If a priority is to get some money out of them, (either as 'punishment', or to make a point, or for other reasons), then you will need to go through a grievance procedure and all that entails, and have this all hanging over you for a certain period of time at least.

If your priority is to get away and put it behind you and have nothing to do with them at the earliest possible moment, resign and walk away.

I'm not saying either is right or wrong, just that you must make your decisions about what actions to take based on your personal desired outcomes and priorities - what path will be best for you. That might coincide with the path that is worst for your employer, or it might not.

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 11:29:03

Hi Flowery, no it isn't about 'punishing' anyone but rather making the point that this is serious, it is affecting my health and you have let me down. Not only that, there are other people in the department who have had similar treatment on health grounds. If I can find another job in the interim then I will. I wish I was in a financial position to just resign and get away from them because if I could afford to then I would. I am applying for other jobs but in the interim, I am stuck with him and he obviously has a bee in his bonnet about me as he manages 3 other departments and has a total of about 60 people working for him. It should never have come to this. The original RA's were to move me to a quieter place and to allow me to work from home if I wasn't feeling well. That is all. But he decided to make any adjustments contingent upon 'further medical evidence' and then did nothing for 3.5 months despite me being of with migraines and leaving work with banging headaches every night which he was aware of. Each time we have complained, we get a blanket response that in effect implies there is no problem in his opinion and we are just making it up. I really have tried, been polite throughout, done my best and I am so frustrated by it all. I have had 3 migraines this week and anxiety since seeing his latest referral form - there simply is no sound reason for him to behaving this way over what should have been a quick, easily resolved issue with where I sit at work. It feels like 3 doctors, 1 nurse and my own self reports are not enough for him an I do have an email trail and actual proof that he did nothing despite knowing about it. I just think after such a long time with them, I deserve to be treated better and I can't help but feel there is a personal element as I have caught the guy out in blatant lies on at least 3 occasions and he knows that I know even though I have said nothing. If I can just get out for another job then I will but if I have to go back and I am concerned now that if I don't raise this formally that he will use his position to give me a bad reference or make things difficult for me but nobody will know.

BerylStreep Fri 09-Dec-16 11:39:45

Can I add my experience as a fairly senior manager?

I work for a really large organisation (10k+ employees) and the vast majority do a great job, have periods of illness, some of which require adjustments, which are put in place, and generally get on with it.

I have also seen individuals who cynically manipulate the OHW system because they fancy a move, want to work shorter hours so they can moonlight, don't like their boss etc etc. It is really really difficult to manage these individuals, and I know for a fact that many lie to OHW to get a more favourable report. There is also considerable abuse of DDA, whereby if someone has a DDA recognised condition they feel they are completely untouchable and can do whatever they want. My experience is that often OHW overstep their remit, and prevent managers from taking reasonable steps to manage their staff. Thankfully, I recognise that these individuals are fairly few and far between, but it does illustrate the potential for the system to be abused.

I don't doubt you for a second, I really don't. It sounds like your working conditions are crap, and the additional stress of the way your management are behaving is only going to make it worse for you. But could it be that your senior manager thinks you are playing the system? Perhaps he has had a bad experience of other people and is tarring everyone with the same brush?

It doesn't make it OK, and I'm not trying to defend his actions, but perhaps if you realised that it may not be as personal as it feels, you may feel less attacked by the whole thing.

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 12:04:03

Hi BerylStreep, I do appreciate this but I have had one other episode in my time there where I was experiencing a spate of migraines following numerous close family bereavements. Other than that my sick record doesn't show a pattern of excessive sick leave attributed to migraines. Under normal circumstances I would get about 5 a year on average. The only times I ever had clusters of them was when I was going through my divorce which pr-dates my service with them, when I had 5 family bereavements plus the loss of 3 friends within a 3 year period and since we moved to this new office with the colourful lights, heat, sun, noise etc. The OH doctor scrutinized the record of my entire sickness history that this manager had sent and said that there were no patterns or anything to indicate I was taking the P. I am not classifed as disabled so I can't use that even if I wanted to but I don't see why I should have to suffer like this through his prejudice and in the face of the medical reports, medical history etc. I have done everything I can to cooperate.

I have worked very hard for them over the years and have reams of evaluations singing my praises. I have worked 60,70,80 hour weeks for them with no extra pay or time given back, worked over weekends, late at night, early mornings, helped colleagues out, 'acted up' to cover positions that are several grades higher than mine and yet despite being a good employee with a long history there this is how he chooses to behave. TBH HE is a major cause of my stress. I realise you don't have to like someone but at least to be courteous and professional but it truly does feel that there is some personal element to his behaviour. If they had just moved me to a quieter spot an made a couple of allowances for the times when migraines early in the morning may mean that I come in slightly later (if I have done that I have always worked to give the time back) then none of this would be happening so whilst I do appreciate that there are people out there who as you say abuse the system, I fail to see why I should be treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' by this man and why my GP's word should be doubted especially when there is a history of medication etc to back it up. It is all so frustrating and I admit that his attitude does stress me out and has started to make me feel like I don't want to go back.

Waitingfordolly Fri 09-Dec-16 12:18:24

Do you definitely not count as disabled, because my brother has an intermittent condition and he does?

zaazaa Fri 09-Dec-16 12:32:19

Hi Waitingfordolly perhaps it is just me but I don't think I want to be classified as disabled as my migraines are stress related and under normal circumstances, I could only get 4 or 5 a year. I also feel that if I chase to get this classification that they will think I am just being a chancer as Beryl pointed out and I most certainly am not. The workplace knows that light acts as a trigger for headaches and migraines for me as well as in my previous office, my colleague (who has an eye condition) and myself who sat in the same corner had to ask for the strip lighting above us to be turned off and we were given daylight lamps instead as it was making us both feel bad. I just wanted to sit somewhere where I could work quietly, without flashing lights and a reception desk so close to me that if I lean backwards slightly I can touch it and the constant noise disturbance that brings and if I felt poorly in the morning and needed to come in an hour or two later that I could. Not even asking them to give me short days but just on days when I am not well to allow some flexible time keeping. I don't think I could be classified as disabled and I would worried about the ramifications of that at futureworkplaces and whether it would act against me.

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