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Being turned down for a job due to 'references'

(48 Posts)
Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 15:06:40

Hi all - some advice please.

I left my last employer with a settlement agreement after years of mismanagement, including the employer refusing to make reasonable adjustments to support me with a known condition which is classed as a disability - the condition worsened over my time with them due to my working conditions and this was well documented over the time.

Part of the settlement agreement was an agreed reference.

I applied for and was offered a post with a different employer but in the same field. However, this job offer was withdrawn on receipt of references, saying the references were not acceptable. I got a copy of the reference they had been supplied and it was as agreed with my previous employer.

I have asked the new employer which bit of the reference is not satisfactory, as my union rep can't see anything in it which would cause me to be turned down, except my sickness record. When I was told verbally by the office manager that there was a problem with my references, she said it was because I had been off sick so much. This was disability-related sickness and, again, well documented as such.

The potential employer has responded to a subject access request about which bit of the reference was deemed to be unsuitable with a letter from the company secretary saying their decision has been made and they will not enter into any further correspondence (no detail at all about what was in the reference that was unsuitable).

I believe this is disability discrimination. Would any of you have a view on whether this might be so? My previous employer has not provided me with a copy of the reference they sent, despite repeated requests.

I am struggling to find work and am frightened that I may never work again due to 'unsatisfactory references'. I should now have been in work for the past six months - jobs at my level do not come up very often in my location.

My union reps, though verbally supportive, never actually take any action at all. They only respond to me when I go through head office to get some advice, and the responses are only ever that they are waiting for someone or other to get back to them.

This has been ongoing since September and is causing me a lot of anxiety (I have a mental health condition likely to be classed as a disability under the Equality Act - I've never been through a tribunal to have the condition judged as to whether it actually is a disability).

In the previous employment I never once had any disciplinary action taken against me, I was never once told of any problems with my work (four years without a line manager and no appraisals or management support - which formed the basis of a grievance eventually when I had also been bullied for years).

Any advice gratefully received.

gamerchick Mon 30-Jan-17 15:14:42

Is your sick record substantial? If it is I can understand a company being reluctant to take someone on.

ImYourMama Mon 30-Jan-17 15:25:51

Sorry to say but I wouldn't offer a job to someone with extensive sick leave

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 15:35:50

It is over the latter time with this employer due to disability-related sickness due to lack of reasonable adjustments. However over the time I've had the condition (30+ years) it's no more significant than colleagues'.

The potential employer referred me to their occupational health department but say they decided not to get them to produce a report, although the OH department did write to my GP before the employer decided they didn't want a report.

I had no problems with sickness with my previous employer in the first few years. Then latterly things were really bad, I was extremely ill and I nearly died. The employer was well aware of the causes (written reports by GP, specialist doctors, Occ Health) and chose not to instigate any measures to support me, thus exacerbating my condition. I have since made a reasonable recovery (I will never be fully fit again), certainly enough to take on a job if I could get one.

The condition is perfectly manageable with a little support, nothing too onerous for an employer. I have managed to work for almost all of my adult life.

Thanks for response.

CactusFred Mon 30-Jan-17 15:37:35

I thought that they were no longer allowed to ask about sickness (Equality Act?)

...but seeing as they did and your ex employer responded you can't blame them for turning you down. Have you ever been one of the other employees who works with the person who is off sick all the time and had to pick up all the extra work? No? Well it's no fun, is unfair on everyone else - why should others cover for you? If you can't put in the hours:be relied upon then you shouldn't be applying...

...but then DWP would see you as fit for work and so it goes on.

Sorry OP.

angeldelightedme Mon 30-Jan-17 15:39:19

If you need lots of time off, then you can't do the job as well as someone who wouldn't, so I don't think you have a case really.
Did your sickness record form part of the 'agreed reference'? I think I would have negotiated any reference to it not to be disclosed.But that's not much help to you now.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 15:39:54

Even if someone had been off sick with cancer and was now in remission ImYourMama? Or had been in an extremely bad motorcycle accident and took months to repair (as well as having PTSD and depression) Eek!

Seems like I'm stuffed then. I did think there were laws to prevent this from happening (ie the 2010 Equality Act) but perhaps I expect too much.

Thanks again.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 15:43:57

Cross post!

I was off sick due to a combination of a concaternation of circumstances and a specific incident, it wasn't a case of being off sick all the time over the years with the employer.

One of my colleagues was frequently off with disability-related sickness and she got a lot of visible support.

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Mon 30-Jan-17 15:45:52

Arkengarthdale, I'm very sorry to hear about this tricky situation. I would have thought you would be covered by equalities legislation, and if you aren't, you should be. There is a world of difference between your case and someone taking every Monday off because of a hangover or making a simple cold the excuse for a week off every other month. I hope the people who have posted on this thread so far are sounding off from a position of ignorance and not representative of potential recruiters, or it beats me how a person with a disability would ever get work at all.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 15:51:00

Thanks Gasp

That's how I was feeling, that the chances of working again were slim through no fault of my own. Those feelings have been confirmed by the responses in this thread.

But thanks to all for answering, even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear! Best know now rather than pursue a hopeless path.

LIZS Mon 30-Jan-17 15:53:14

I think the difference is that while your former employer chose not to go down the disciplinary route, this potential one feels that they might be more obliged to. If part of the reason you left was because of attendance and productivity maybe on balance this is a risk they are choosing not to take. What outcome are you seeking, as I assume you wouldn't want to work for an employer who is already so unsympathetic anyway. Are you eligible for esa and/or pip?

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 30-Jan-17 15:58:09

Also it is possible the new employer did not ask about sickness record. If you have agreed a reference with your previous employer that mentions your sickness record then under the terms of the agreement with you that is the reference they must submit.

Why did you agree a reference referring to your sickness record out of interest? I would merely have asked for a reference referring to the quality of work, types of work etc.

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 30-Jan-17 15:59:32

oops posted too soon.

Is it possible to go back to previous employer and agree a different reference that does not refer to your sickness history that can be used in the future?

Hugepeppapigfan Mon 30-Jan-17 16:02:11

Could a problem be this 'agreed' reference? In my sector references have to be provided on a form supplied by us. Letter references are not acceptable. So if we receive one that is a letter and the past employer won't (isn't allowed to!) complete the form then we know it is a union negotiated agreed reference.

iMatter Mon 30-Jan-17 16:03:17

Perhaps your potential new employer phoned your old employer and your old employer gave a poor verbal reference. I don't suppose there's anyway you can find out?

Moreisnnogedag Mon 30-Jan-17 16:05:23

I've had a quick read through of some examples and it appears yes there is a case of discrimination. There's various ones but I thought this was the most straightforwardly like yours link

The failure to follow through with an occy health report is most damning I think. By starting it they recognised the potential need for reasonable adjustments but by abandoning it half way through screams disability discrimination (a "can't be arsed" attitude).

I would think any half decent company secretary would be falling over themselves to try and come up with alternative reasons why the offer was withdrawn, especially since you made a SAR showing that you are willing to proceed with this.

I'm sorry people are bastards.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 16:13:32

LIZS there was never any mention of my attendance or productivity. On the contrary, they said there was never any problem with my work. There were absolutely no grounds for any disciplinary. My union rep was very firmly of the opinion that if they introduced capability procedures before even trying to make reasonable adjustments, we would be going to tribunal. I never did anything wrong, except to not cope with the workload of three people whilst being trashed by a so-called colleague. (Incidentally this colleague was eventually sacked for something else)

To be clear, I have been working for 35 years and it is only a period over a year ago that has ever been a problem, and this six months seems to override the previous 34 years of productive life. This seems beastly unfair.

I am not eligible for any benefits as I am now fit enough to work (hence applying for jobs).

dataandspot Mon 30-Jan-17 16:14:02

Op if you don't work would you be able to claim pip?

If not you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 16:23:57

Thanks again to all responses.

That's exactly what I believed happened, iMatter - but 'proving' it is impossible. Which is why I went down the route of getting them to say what it was exactly with the reference which did not suit them. They still have not done this.

With reference to said reference, the previous employer did say they were not allowed to lie if asked directly about the number of days off sick. The don't, of course, make any reference to the part they played in that sickness.

Thank you Moreisnnogedag My GP said any new employer worth their salt would look at the sickness and try to find out why - I have ten Occ Health reports saying that management need to sort out my workload and working conditions and that it is their fault that I am off sick. This of course wasn't taken into account.

I have just read that link - thank you! That is exactly what I think happened to me as all the other bits of the reference say I'm really good at my job and would have no problem fulfilling the potential new role.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 16:31:49

No eligible for PIP (or any other benefit) as I am able to work - I have taken a year off to recover from the bad episode and bring my condition under control again. I will have it for life and without medication it would be very much worse.

2014newme Mon 30-Jan-17 16:37:19

Hi I work in hr and lots of employers don't even ask about sick record on references.
I would in future send my agreed reference myself with the application rather than they apply for it separately. But lots of employers won't ask.
Good luck

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 18:28:47

Thanks for that advice 2014newme

I guess I must live in hope

Floggingmolly Mon 30-Jan-17 18:36:45

When you say your condition is manageable with a little support, what form would this support take, from your new employers?
And did you make it known to them at interview that you require on-going support?

SheldonCRules Mon 30-Jan-17 18:38:52

A compromise refernence is easy to spot and it's more about what it doesn't say than what it does.

You could have discussed the sickness at interview and out your side across, finding out you've had huge chunks of time off only at reference stage won't have gone down well.

Arkengarthdale Mon 30-Jan-17 18:58:20

No questions were asked at interview about sickness although I did tick the disabled box and told them of my condition in the application form.

The support I needed in my previous post to remain in employment, and I would need in future, is a manageable workload (just one persons work instead of three), a manager to approach for help when the workload got just too big, and protection from bullying and slander which was witnessed but brushed under the carpet. Nothing too onerous. I have managed to work most of my life with this condition. Sometimes I just need a little extra support like flexi time or the ability to work uninterrupted for an hour or so. I never got that, ever. In fact, a manager removed remote access to my laptop which ensured I had to spend all my time in the office with the so-called colleague who bullied and abused me. This caused a lot of damage to my self esteem and eventually my health.

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