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Reasonable adjustments

(48 Posts)
erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 04:02:14

Hi MNetters

In regards reasonable adjustments for employees who have experienced or are experiencing a medical problem which affects or is affected by their role at work, who adjudicates on whether a requested adjustment is reasonable? I raised a suggestion with my manager and there was some pushback, and now I feel hellish guilty for asking at all. In my opinion the adjustment I requested would be mutually beneficial for me and my organization; my manager expressed concerns.

I would be surprised if the difference of opinion between me and my manager becomes a practical barrier in my case, but I am curious as to how an adjustment being reasonable is determined.

2014newme Sat 27-May-17 04:09:27

Ultimately an employment tribunal could decide. That would be expensive, stressful and should be avoided if at all possible.
Have you made a formal request and dies your medical report or occupational health report support it?

Bitchycocktailwaitress Sat 27-May-17 04:13:00

Really it is totally up to interpretation.

So for example, a hotel turning over £millions per year, hires a receptionist who is a wheelchair user. In this case it is reasonable for the hotel to spend a couple of £thousand replacing part of the reception desk with a lower desk, so she can see the guest checking in.

On the other hand a cafe turning over £2K a month would not be expected to install a lift costing £25K. Hope this helps???

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 04:25:34

I have not made a formal request, no. I would be surprised if OH or my GP did not agree with me that the adjustment would support my staying well. For me there is a lot of shame tied up in my request and I felt terrible when my boss pushed back even though I know that this in part relates to her own angst to be honest. I hate playing the health card especially as my problem is mental health related and I have the impression that my boss' boss does not believe in mental health problems hmm This might or might not be true but doesn't help with the guilt factor.

It is unlikely to go to tribunal(!) but it is interesting to know that it is ultimately subjective. I thought as much because I could not really find any guidelines as to what constitutes reasonableness. My opinion is that my boss' boss will agree to the adjustment - for all that she appears to be skeptical about the existence of mental health problems, she is eminently practical, as is my request - and that OH will support it too. I was mostly asking out of curiosity and anxiety that I am asking for too much, when I am looking for practical strategies to avoid taking further time off due to MH reasons.

HandbagCrazy Sat 27-May-17 04:37:03

How big is the company you work for?

Mine is multi-national so has a lot of money and self-interest in maintaining a good workplace reputation. Procedure with us is a referral to occ health for any ongoing health issues (physical or mental). They then meet with you and assess your needs and make recommendations to your manager. I say recommendations but part of it is saying the adjustments the manager must make and part of it is saying 'x would help her but manager to review to see if this can be implemented.' This usually refers to a request for a change of working hours.

What request did you make? If it was an easy thing for them to give you. I would look into speaking to HR with a view to getting an occ health referral.

OhTheRoses Sat 27-May-17 04:47:20

If your adjustment relates to a disability as defined under the Equality Act (and I suspect it does having read many of your helpful and supportive posts) your employer has a statutory requirement to consider adjustments and implement where reasonable. bitchycocktailwaitress is right.

In context if, for example, the issue were anxiety exacerbated by crowded rush hour travel it would be reasonable to adjust your working hours. However if you were customer facing, say an NHS physio in a 9-5 department where it was not possible for you to continue seeing client until 6.30 because reception closed at 5, lone working arrs, etc, whilst reasonable to adjust your start time to 10.30 there would have to be an adjustment to your pay because of your reduced working hours.

It may be that an Access to Work Assessment could help in those circumstances and I have known them recommend help with transport arrangements (although specifically relating to physical issues but I don't see why that might not extend to MH issues if evidenced by a clinician).

I hope that helps. You were hugely supportive of me a year ago. Good luck.

Can HR/OHP help?

OhTheRoses Sat 27-May-17 04:50:47

Oh Access to work will fund many adjustments. The Employer pays first £500 if less than 500 employees, £1000 if more than.

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 05:04:13

I have an OH referral, so can raise it with OH. I am off work at the moment. This is my second period off work with this MH issue. I should be alright going forward, because I have made some changes during this period of medical leave whereas I spend the previous time off frantically trying to get back to how things were before. I was back for a year before I came off again. So it is all not great. Despite all this, my employer is keen to have me back when I am well and I was trying to think of what needed to be changed in order for that to happen. In hindsight I stayed in work for far too long this time and ought to have come off work sooner; at the same time work keeps me well in many ways so coming off work is sort of my last resort.

The request is to work from home flexibly and at short notice for 1-3 days at a time. My work can easily be done from home; usual practise in my department is for each employee to work from home up to one day per week. When my MH gets bad, I can find both public transport and open-plan offices detrimental to my MH. The most recent period I had during which I felt a bit like this was like this was only a few days long. I think that if I return to work and end up in a situation where I feel as if I cannot make it into the office after a few days working from home, it is time to take a few days off, whether vacation days or sick days.

I was talking to my manager about my upcoming return to work, and raising things that might help me in the future. My manager pushed back on this suggestion RE more flexible working from home, because my boss' boss has opinions about home working too regularly hence the above guidelines about one day per week. To be honest, I prefer to be in the office too! But when I feel as if I cannot manage the train, if I can work from home, at least I can work. If I cannot work at all, I take a sick day or vacation day. I am boring and conscientious like that. It's not as if I sit at home watching TV.

I said to my manager, if my productivity goes down, we can have a conversation about that. I have the impression that she would like this flexibility regarding home working too, but finds it difficult to ask for things herself maybe(?) I am not sure if this is the sort of thing that needs to go in a flexible working request(?) My contract of employment states that my place of work is the office and other locations/occasional travel as required. In practise no-one would really know as my manager does not work in the same office as me and nor does my manager's manager. The company is a global multinational.

I am overthinking, and I know that. I found it really hard to raise this issue and then to handle my manager talking about unfairness among the team with regards to home working. I started to doubt myself as to whether my request was reasonable or not.

TheweewitchRoz Sat 27-May-17 05:08:41

As others have said Op, it's subjective & dependent on organisation size - so it depends on what you're asking.

What was your bosses response? I don't understand why you feel guilty - if what you're asking is reasonable (in your own eyes, you're not asking to be awkward or costly but asking for good reason) then please don't feel guilty. You've nothing to feel guilty about.

Good luck!

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 05:10:44

Thanks OhTheRoses. I am glad that you found me supportive a year ago smile

That is good to know RE access to work because I do not have an ergonomic desk set up at home and that was one of the things I wanted to ask OH whether they could help me with. I do not know if my diagnosis is covered under the DDA. That is interesting RE the crowded transport thing. For me it is train stations per se which are best avoided when I am unwell; our office is open-plan and interpersonal stuff can trigger me too when I am fragile. My role is relatively political and relational as well as technical. Permanent home working would not be a good alternative because a lot of my role is to do with building relationships, but my suggestion seemed like a good fit to me.

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 05:15:15

Thank you TheweewitchRoz

The guilt is sort of...chronic? It is connected to my MH stuff as well. I feel terrible for having taken two periods of medical leave for MH reasons. It has been a tough couple of years for me, and my employer have been great. I am trying to do what I can to avoid having to come off work yet again. My job does not cause the MH problems, but can exacerbate them if I am on the downward part of the trajectory. I am trying to be practical about how to stop myself from getting to such a bad place for a third time in rapid succession.

TheweewitchRoz Sat 27-May-17 05:16:29

Cross post Op. I do have sympathy with your mgr as more & more people are wanting to work from home & that becomes problematic to manage & difficult to say no to if others are doing it. That said, your request is for health reasons & therefore should be properly considered.

Would a compromise be WFH 1 day per week but increase it during times when you're struggling?

TheweewitchRoz Sat 27-May-17 05:17:42

Either way, please try not to feel guilty as that doesn't help you (& won't impact your managers decision).

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 05:38:55

Would a compromise be WFH 1 day per week but increase it during times when you're struggling?

Yes, this is what I was suggesting, sorry if not clear from my post.

It's a good point that feeling guilty will not help my manager's decision. It's also interesting that you raised the point about it being difficult to say no if others are doing it. This was more or less the argument my manager made. Is this really so difficult from a management point of view? I have never been a line manager, so I have no idea. Surely each employee is an individual with an individual situation? Does it really cause so much loss of overall productivity/goodwill/whatever if one employee has different working arrangements to another employee? <derails own thread>

TheweewitchRoz Sat 27-May-17 06:46:22

It depends on the individual - as a manager you know who your better / not so good employees are & those who need mgt more than others. You also know that there are certain jobs which are better done in an office environment (e.g. access to people / documents / relationship building etc etc). However often the less good staff members are not aware that they require more mgt & therefore get upset if their request to WFH is turned down & raise accusations of discrimination when they see that colleagues are allowed to do it etc. Therefore it can be easier to just say no rather than open a potential can of worms.

Equally, whilst everyone might be great, the dynamics of the job / team mean that people are required to be in the office & therefore again, saying yes to one could open the floodgates to others making the same request & therefore again it's just easier to say no to all.

I'm not saying the above is right because as a manager each case should be taken on its own merits & an honest conversation held with individuals (which is what I have done previously) but often managers prefer to avoid this by saying no to all (as even if you explain why the answer is no, people still feel aggrieved that they didn't get what they asked for).

In your circumstances, it's also difficult for the manager as they shouldn't disclose why you would be granted so much time to WFH to others but may get grief from your colleagues who want what you have but are told no with no explanation as to why you get it.

Not agreeing / disagreeing that the above is correct, just giving some ideas why.

I do hope you get sorted though & think your compromise sounds sensible as I'd rather have an employee working & available, even if they're at home, rather than off sick altogether.

erinaceus Sat 27-May-17 07:10:04

However often the less good staff members are not aware that they require more mgt.

I had never thought of this. I have colleagues who complain about micro-managing and I do not feel micro-managed to the extent that they seem to. I am more junior than they are and my performance reviews are typically better. From one angle this is shit for me. I was somewhat bullied for this earlier in my career which was particularly tough because the head of my department was not there to witness it. I was less self-aware then than I am now. I leaned how to handle that eventually. There are worse problems to have! That was not the reason my MH derailed either, but when I am fragile that kind of thing gets harder to be resilient to.

People, eh? Endlessly fascinating.

I'd rather have an employee working & available, even if they're at home, rather than off sick altogether.

This was essentially my reasoning. The confidentiality one is interesting too. My management line are a bit crap at that TBH, especially when it comes to medical stuff shock I think my colleagues know that it is all mental health related but not all of them know that agressive men are a trigger for me, which is massively unhelpful in an hierarchical corporation, but we all have our crosses to bear. I am well aware that it is not them but my past stuff but there was a time shortly before I came of work this time when I was flashbacking all the time in the office and crying a lot in the disabled loo. It's a sort of PTSD-depression-anxiety thing. I am much better now but that was all pretty hellish! This is the level of detail I do not feel comfortable explaining to my boss; my boss' boss however I am more comfortable explaining things directly to, we are more on the same wavelength. It's not as if she will stage an intervention without my agreement. I am reasonably confident that this will all work out in he end. You have been massively helpful though. Thank you!

TheweewitchRoz Sat 27-May-17 08:35:54

I hope it does work out for you. Good luck!

What I would say as a manager would be that whilst I don't want to / have a right to know personal details, the more information you have can really help with understanding & supporting individuals as best you can.

In addition, re the WFH specifically, if appropriate for your role, you could offer to outline specific tasks that you'll accomplish during extended periods at home & then discuss / email what you've done as standard. I've never asked for this from staff but do find it immensely helpful when staff do this for me as it means if anyone else questions why I'm ok with people working from home, I use it to demonstrate the output. Generally other managers leave me alone after that & don't question what I let my staff do!

daisychain01 Sat 27-May-17 09:10:15

Could you suggest a trial period of 4-6 weeks, to provide evidence that the approach can work in reality ?

OhTheRoses Sat 27-May-17 09:31:39

I'm going to tell you how I would advise your managers erinaceous.

You need an OHP referral to confirm a variety of things but principally that you are disabled under the Equality Act (2010) and I suspect you fall within the definition.

I would also ask OHP to advise if there are any other underlying conditions that you are seeking or receiving optimal support for; what further adjustments could be made; whether your condition had scope for improvement and the likely time frame.

Overall and this is the sensitive bit I would also be looking for advice to see if you would be able to render a full contractual commitment, with adjustments but within a defined time frame.

Comparisons with colleagues should be irrelevant if you are covered by the EA however you will have to demonstrate you can fulfil all aspects of your role either from increased home working or adjustments that help you to attend work - some adjustments can be permanent.

I wish you well and please pm me if you need more tailored advice.
flowers

lougle Sat 27-May-17 09:36:19

"The request is to work from home flexibly and at short notice for 1-3 days at a time."

It may be that your request is too open ended and woolly as it stands for your manager to be comfortable? That request could end up with you working from home 3 out of 5 days per week on most weeks. It isn't what you intend now, but it could spiral and end in chaos.

Perhaps you need to adjust it with a more defined plan for home working when your mental state is fragile and you need to reduce travel strain, giving the impression that it would be an exception rather than the rule?

2014newme Sat 27-May-17 14:11:55

I work in hr and agree with pp about the concerns I would have around this arrangement.

daisychain01 Sat 27-May-17 14:39:06

The trouble with MH in organisations is that it's a double edged sword. On the one hand the employee does not want to be disadvantaged by having unhelpful labels and stigma placed on them. On the other hand, those with MH require non-standard arrangements which make management and HR have 'concerns' and makes their condition stick out like a sore thumb.

Add this to the frustrating and persistent culture of bums on seats presenteeism mentality even tho we're in 21st century, and it becomes really difficult for employee and management to reconcile.

OP I think you need to be realistic if you want to remain in post in your company. Think about what you're asking for and whether you can compromise on your request to show management you want to meet them half-way. It sounds like they are supportive of you, be comforted by that, but think if you can try to firm up on the opened ended aspects, so you have a regular flexible working arrangement that is more main-stream and can integrate into arrangements that other staff may also have in place.

In other words, don't become the sticking-up nail that's just waiting to be hammered down.

But do persevere in the discussion with your manager, and hopefully they will appreciate your efforts.

erinaceus Sun 28-May-17 05:55:31

Thank you everyone for your comments. It is helpful for me to understand how the situation may look from an organisational perspective. Putting more concreteness around my request and being prepared to compromise are both useful suggestions.

From my perspective it's less to do with demanding special treatment and more to do with keeping myself safe and well. However I can see how it might not look that way from an organisational perspective. Not only would I prefer not to lose my job due to my MH, I do actually prefer to be in the office - I'm naturally quite a sociable person and find myself more productive that way - it's more about having a plan in place in case things get worse MH-wise.

The stigma side is interesting. What does that look like from an HR perspective? Is there a desire to "get rid" of "troublemakers", for example? I'm open about my MH stuff in general, although try not to over-share as there has been a fair bit of trauma and some relatively serious mental health problems in my past. Curiously, when I am well what I have been through is part of what makes me good at my role, but it is the same thing that can overwhelm me if I am struggling.

I am absolutely prepared to concrete-up my request and to meet my management halfway. I was more thinking of crisis planning than a regular arrangement.

Thank you everyone, you have helped me a great deal.

OhTheRoses Sun 28-May-17 08:59:51

From my perspective erinaceous your case is an absence management issue where the organisation needs to be aware of your disability under the Equality Act. Part of the management, however, is to ensure reasonable adjustments are in place to ensure you are able to do your job, or meet the requirements of your contract. If you become to unwell to do that your case would become one of ill health capability management.

In my experience the most support is given to employees who keep open two way communication and can be seen to making every effort to minimise impact on their employer and their performance.

Having contingency arrangements in place is a good thing.

lougle Sun 28-May-17 09:03:19

I think it's probably a wording issue? 'Flexibly and at short notice' is so open ended that it would give you the ability to do what you want, when you want, with no limits.

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